Hayden announces his retirement

Matthew Hayden, Australia's most successful opening batsman, has ended a dire home Test campaign by deciding to step down from the team before he was pushed. Hayden, who was dropped from the limited-overs squads last Thursday, had initially hoped to quit after the Ashes, but confirmed his retirement at the Gabba on Tuesday morning.

Asked if he ideally wanted to go on until after the Ashes he said: "If it was, I believe I would be going on that tour. This is the point where I want to step off."

He will be given a public farewell at tonight's Twenty20 international at the Gabba, where he will appear at the innings break. Hayden said his retirement was from all representative cricket, effective immediately. He reached his decision on Saturday and said he had no concerns about what was to come in the next stage of his life.

"There's absolutely zero fear," Hayden said. "I've got zero regrets. I've tried to, rightly or wrongly, extract every ounce of whatever ability that I've been given and turn it into performance.

"At one stage on Saturday I was picking a crazy bush of wild tomatoes and talking with [his daughter] Grace. I think I've had enough, I want to be here. She said: 'Daddy, one more Christmas.' [I said]: 'This is time'."

Hayden, 37, had a difficult summer and managed only 149 runs at 16.55 from five Tests while hearing pleas for a significantly younger player to replace him. He was hindered by a heel injury in the off-season and never regained his spark, which was a shame considering his major contribution to the game in Australia over the past decade.

The first of Hayden's 103 Tests came in South Africa in 1993-94, when he replaced the injured Mark Taylor, but it was not until 2000 that he was finally able to secure a regular spot in the national side. He went to India and scored an Australia-record 549 runs in three matches and his place was not in danger until the 2005 Ashes tour. Ending that series with a century at The Oval, he produced four hundreds in consecutive games for the second time in his career.

No Australian opener has scored more Test runs than Hayden's 8625 - at an average of 50.73 - and his 30 hundreds place him behind Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh on the local list. The final time he reached three figures was against India in Adelaide 12 months ago. In the one-day arena there were 161 matches, 6133 runs, 10 hundreds and two World Cups.

Calls for Hayden to step down grew louder through the Australian summer and by the time he reached Sydney he was under immense pressure to make a decision on his future. He was given a standing ovation when he walked off the SCG, having made an unconvincing 39 in the second innings, but gave no hint on which way he would go.

With Hayden's departure, Australia need to decide on a new partner for Simon Katich for the upcoming Test tour of South Africa and then the Ashes. Contenders will include Phil Jaques, who will play grade cricket this weekend after recovering from back surgery, and there has also been support for Victoria's Chris Rogers and Phillip Hughes, a 20-year-old left-hander from New South Wales.

As Hayden made his announcement he was watched by the Australian Twenty20 squad, which lost him from its ranks last week, the former Queensland captain Jimmy Maher, Cricket Australia's general manager of cricket Michael Brown and the rugby union international David Croft. His wife Kellie stood at the back of the room, coming forward to collect her son Thomas after he went to sit with his Dad.

"I'm really excited, it's going to be great," Kellie said. "It's sad, it's been a great journey. I'm glad he's made the decision."

Vs India - average of 59.00
Vs England - average of 45.65
Vs Pakistan - average of 46.75
Vs South Africa - average of 43.70
Vs Sri Lanka - average of 51.07
Vs West Indies - average of 51.54

Vs Bangladesh - average of 33.60
Vs New Zealand - average of 36.55

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Cancer free baby

Doctors at University College London said the girl and her mother were doing well following the birth this week.

The embryo was screened for the altered BRCA1 gene, which would have meant the girl had a 80% chance of developing breast cancer.

Women in three generations of her husband's family have been diagnosed with the disease in their 20s.

Paul Serhal, the fertility expert who treated the couple, said: "This little girl will not face the spectre of developing this genetic form of breast cancer or ovarian cancer in her adult life.

"The parents will have been spared the risk of inflicting this disease on their daughter.

"The lasting legacy is the eradication of the transmission of this form of cancer that has blighted these families for generations."

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) involves taking a cell from an embryo at the eight-cell stage of development, when it is around three-days old, and testing it.

This is before conception - defined as when the embryo is implanted in the womb.

Doctors then select an embryo free from rogue genes to continue the pregnancy, and discard any whose genetic profile points to future problems.

Using PGD to ensure a baby does not carry an altered gene which would guarantee a baby would inherit a disease such as cystic fibrosis, is well-established.

But in 2006, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said doctors could test for so-called susceptibility genes, such as BRCA1.

Everybody carries a version of these genes - in fact a properly functioning BRCA1 protein helps stop cancer before it starts - but some particular variations of the genes greatly increase the risk of cancer.

Increased chance

Carrying the key BRCA1 mutation in this family's case would have given the increased chance of breast cancer and 50% chance of ovarian cancer later in life.

However, carrying the gene does not make cancer inevitable, and there is also a chance the disease could be cured, if caught early enough.

The couple, who wish to remain anonymous, wanted to eradicate the gene flaw from their family.

The husband's grandmother, mother, sister and a cousin have been diagnosed with the disease.

If the 27-year-old woman and her husband had had a son, he could have been a carrier and passed it on to any daughters.

Josephine Quintavalle, of the campaign group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said: "This is nothing personal towards the girl, but I think we have gone too far.

"Underlying all this is eugenics."

Mrs Quintavalle said the message was that "you are better off dead, than being born with this gene".

"I hope 20 years down the line we will have eradicated breast cancer - not eradicated the carriers.

"This testing procedure is being used more and more for less and less significant reasons."

But Kath McLachlan, of Breast Cancer Care, said those with the faulty BRCA1 gene would be very interested in the development.

"There are many complex issues to take into account before undertaking PGD, and the decision will finally come down to an individual's personal ethics."

And Professor Peter Braude, director of the Centre for PGD at Guy's Hospital in London, said: "The decision as to whether PGD is appropriate for a couple will be made after a thorough discussion with knowledgeable genetic counsellors and clinical geneticists.

"It will not be suitable for everyone who has experience of breast cancer in their family, nor where the chances of the IVF needed for PGD has a low chance of succeeding."

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