India in Australia 2011-12

Hilfenhaus not so predictable this time

Daniel Brettig

December 22, 2011

Comments: 42 | Text size: A | A

Ben Hilfenhaus toiled hard without luck as Alastair Cook ploughed on, Australia v England, 4th Test, Melbourne, December 26, 2010
Ben Hilfenhaus has picked himself up after being floored during last summer's Ashes series © Getty Images

Ben Hilfenhaus has lifted himself out of the rut of predictability that made him look so innocuous during the Ashes last summer, and will be a far more versatile performer should he bowl against India's batsmen on Boxing Day.

So says Hilfenhaus' state captain, George Bailey, who was frank in his assessments and advice to the Tasmanian swing bowler on his return to Sheffield Shield ranks after Alastair Cook and others in the England batting line-up had so humbled his methods.

Under the guidance of Bailey and the Tigers' bowling coach Ali de Winter, 28-year-old Hilfenhaus has endeavoured to use a wider range of angles on the bowling crease this summer, a favoured tactic of skilful bowlers for more than a century. He is also striving for a fuller length.

"Hilfy last year had become quite predictable," Bailey told ESPNcricinfo. "He could replicate the same ball over and over but at Test cricket, once players were in he found it hard to actually break through and get a wicket.

"So aside from getting over some niggling injuries, which he's carried for quite some time - he's certainly bowling a bit quicker and is a bit stronger this year - is just a bit more variety at the crease, being able to bowl wider of the stumps, and bowl different balls rather than just the outswinger."

The adjustment of Hilfenhaus' approach has not been an entirely seamless process, for his dependable, uncomplicated character does not always take readily to change. Bailey said Hilfenhaus had needed to see results in his new methods before he committed to them fully. He also had to return his bowling action to the full-bodied style that first earned him a Test spot, rather than the self-protecting adjustments he had made to alleviate the pain of knee tendinitis, to the detriment of his pace and swing.

"He's certainly trying to come from different areas [on the crease] a bit more, Bailey said. "He's also had a bit of trouble with knee tendinitis, and I don't think he did it consciously but he just slightly adjusted his action and was bowling around his front knee a bit more. And he does bowl from quite close to the stumps, so if he was swinging it, it was swinging a little early, rather than coming a little wider of the crease and angling in at the stumps before taking it away.

"Hilfy is someone who needs to see the results before he believes something, but there is no doubt I think if he can learn to use the crease a bit more, come from wider and angle in before taking it away, he will not need to swing it as much as he thinks he needs to.

"He's certainly done that for periods, he's starting to bowl a better length that suits him, giving him the chance to move the ball, because he has got a skill that not a great deal of bowlers in Australia have in terms of being able to swing the ball at pretty good pace. He's still working on those things and working pretty hard."

Bailey sensed a certain impatience about Hilfenhaus last summer, as his hard-won place in the Test team was slipping away from him. Seeking a startling bag of wickets to re-assert himself, he may have lost sight of the patience and persistence that gave him a baggy green cap in the first place.

"We've challenged him a bit this year at Tassie to bowl into the wind a bit more, rather than being a strike bowler all the time," Bailey said. "Whether Hilf felt it or not, I felt at times he felt his way back in was to take a big bag of wickets and so he was bowling to try to take wickets every ball, whereas this year he's been a bit more patient and willing to do the roles.

"If he's taking wickets that's fine, if he's not then he can tie up an end and help Luke [Butterworth] or James [Faulkner] or Xavier [Doherty] take wickets. He's just got back to enjoying his cricket a bit more and working hard for the team while providing a bit more variation. I'd still like to see him bowling a little fuller, but that's something we'll keep discussing when he gets the chance to play for Tassie.

"Hilfy is someone who needs to see the results before he believes something, but there is no doubt I think if he can learn to use the crease a bit more, come from wider and angle in before taking it away, he will not need to swing it as much as he thinks he needs to." George Bailey on Ben Hilfenhaus

"No doubt when he's at his best he's in Australia's best handful of fast bowlers. Looking at the Test series coming up and where they're going to be in their focus, being in England in 2013, I still think he's got a big part to play. It is good to see he's back in the mix."

Hilfenhaus returns to an Australian pace battery that is now singing from the simple hymn sheet of Craig McDermott, who has stressed the importance of bowling a full length to draw batsmen into drives and edges, even if a few more runs may accrue. Bailey said the method was neither new nor complicated, but could certainly be effective.

"It's not new information there, I think Greg Chappell before him was big on that, if you talk to Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie that's the length they bowled as well, I don't think it is rocket science in terms of a mantra," he said. "But that is the challenge, particularly as a young bowling group when you're playing against great batsmen and certainly some of these Indian players are.

"It can be pretty daunting to just keep throwing the ball up there full because you can get hurt a little bit on the scoreboard. The flipside is the rewards wickets-wise can be a lot greater, and it is as much about learning when you can go hard at that full length and when you need to restrict things and tie up an end."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Bruisers on (December 25, 2011, 7:25 GMT)

Hilfenhaus will be the man Sehwag targets.. Good luck Hilfy, you'll need a lot of it.

Posted by zenboomerang on (December 24, 2011, 3:21 GMT)

@Wefinishthis... Agree, but our middle order (4,5,6) has been the main culprit... Don't stop watching cricket - we can only get better :P ... Hilfenhaus ranks at no.34 in strike rate for SS bowlers this season... Faulkner, Butterworth & Bird all have better figures than Hilfy does for Tas as do a large number of bowlers from other States... The "picking the players in form" from the Argus review seems to have been thrown out the window... On the + side, Siddle has a good record at home... But really need a 5th bowler for this match... Can't rely on Pattinson to get a 5-for every match...

Posted by Micgyver on (December 23, 2011, 6:24 GMT)

I definitely think Hilfy deserves another crack.At the moment i dont think Starc is quite up to it and would probably be targeted and punished by India.Picking Hilfy means that the attack is also fairly strong enough to cope without an all rounder hence Marsh should play and Christian will miss out.

Posted by Wefinishthis on (December 23, 2011, 6:02 GMT)

Thanks RandyOZ, I think it's just that it is painfully clear to everyone that Hilfenhaus no more belongs in the Australian team than Mick Lewis. malomay - The thing is about Anderson is that he proved himself at 1st class level to earn his way back into the side, the point that a lot of people are making is that Hilfenhaus has not improved and has not earned his spot back. The article is a joke. His biggest problem IS accuracy. He simply cannot bowl the same ball in good areas consistently with a slight variation each time (Vindaliew you are 100% correct). The Indian team could not be happier knowing they get to face the impotent Hilfenhaus and inconsistent Starc and Siddle. Matt. - We all feel your pain. I'm about ready to stop watching the Aussies as long as Siddle, Hilfenhaus, Johnson and Starc are in the team again.

Posted by dunger.bob on (December 23, 2011, 2:52 GMT)

@YorkshirePudding : There is more spin in these 'official' quotes and articles than a bagful of Warnes. (that holds on a number of levels) They (CA) have a media manager or some such, and to be fair, if they're paying him he may as well do something. Sometimes, if you changed the names and hid the headline, the story could be about AFL or the NRL. I think most of the words we see in the sporting press are just grist from the same PR mill.

I get your point about recycling the same old players and generally speaking you are right. If they aren't up to scratch, you are better off moving on. There are exceptions though. I remember saying the same thing about a bloke you may have heard of, name of Freddie Flintoff. Jimmy Anderson struggled early as well, as did Damien Martyn. Mark Waugh was picked and dropped a few times, as was his brother Steve. (Usually as direct swap actually). My point is that players can & do improve. Not sure Hilf is one of them, but it's worth giving him a go.

Posted by dunger.bob on (December 23, 2011, 2:26 GMT)

I like Hilfy, reminds me of my brother in law, and I agree that he is a better option than Starc but only if he bowls at his best. I know he got hammered by England, but they all did and Ricky had run out of ideas by 10am. Clarke will do a better job of managing him.

George Bailey sounds as though he has been busy putting Hilfy back together again. I hope he succeeded because Hilfy ain't a bad bowler when his confidence is up, and he move the ball around like magic at times.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2011, 0:15 GMT)

i think hilfy will do better this time around. He'll benifit from not have Johnson at the other end who released all the pressure against the Poms. He can keep it tight and he looks much more threatening when he is getting late swing - which has been happening lately.

Posted by Meety on (December 22, 2011, 22:56 GMT)

@ Patchmaster - pls bear in mind that Cook's success was based on the fact that he was not playing ODIs - his long term technical deficiancy outside off-stump was ironed-out. With Cook now the captain of the ODI side - where nibbles outside off result in a single to 3rd man, he'll be picked off like in his early days. Strauss is past his use by date, I'll be surprised (genuinely) if he ever scores a ton again in a test match.

Posted by auscrktfan on (December 22, 2011, 22:37 GMT)

@ Patchmaster, I think losing to NZ by 7 runs when chasing 240 gave most Austrailian Crickets fans an indication of where this team is at.. Rebuilding, but hopefully they can cause a couple of surprises... A lot of players in this Australian side can be (note I said can and not are) match winners on their day, they a just a little inconsistent at the moment..

Posted by malomay on (December 22, 2011, 22:08 GMT)

@randyOz, your vendetta against Hilfenhaus is becoming a little tiresome. No doubt if you were an English supporter you'd have called for Jimmy Anderson never to play for England again at the same stage of his career. In fact Hilf has better stats than Anderson did after the same amount of tests ! Luckily for England, their selectors realised the value of a genuine swing bowler & kept persisting with him. Jimmy has repaid their faith...hopefully Hilfy will too.

Posted by RandyOZ on (December 22, 2011, 21:52 GMT)

@Patchmaster, nice theory, too bad the truth is we have the best attack on Earth and are only second to South Africa. South Africa 2 is 3rd.

Posted by Patchmaster on (December 22, 2011, 20:50 GMT)

The English totally took apart the India side in the test matches, this will be a VERY good indicator of how AUS are doing on the World scale / ranking. Brace yourselves Aussie fans, you might get a rude awakening here.

Posted by Patchmaster on (December 22, 2011, 20:48 GMT)

England will be thrilled to see him back in the fold, and we'll be watching Cook and Co, take him apart in the upcoming Ashes. Can't wait.

Posted by hhillbumper on (December 22, 2011, 20:35 GMT)

Jonesey 2>Are you going to tell us that Siddle and Hilfy are world class bowlers? He has learned to bowl in the BBL.That is the make of an international bowler in Aus now.Guess we keep the ashes for the next five years then

Posted by McGorium on (December 22, 2011, 18:54 GMT)

@Front-Foot-Lunge: Possibly, but they haven't shown that they can win in the subcontinent by playing spin well. The Aussie team of the late 1990s-2000s won in SRL and Pak, failing to beat only India. They have won individual games in India, though. I do not believe that England has done that in a long time. So, we'll see... I understand that they are touring India sometime soon... That being the case, it'll be interesting to see how their batsmen cope on turning tracks.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (December 22, 2011, 17:32 GMT)

Let's face it - Hilfy's a very good bowler, but England are too good. They're way better than anyone else, as the facts clearly show.

Posted by JG2704 on (December 22, 2011, 17:30 GMT)

@Sam Matthews on (December 22 2011, 13:50 PM GMT) - Johnson mirrors the whole side. On his day he can destroy a team but at other times he is awful

Posted by zico123 on (December 22, 2011, 17:09 GMT)

i won't pick Hiffy in the playing 11, rather stick to same bowling unit which did well at Hobart

Posted by AidanFX on (December 22, 2011, 15:37 GMT)

No doubt Harris is in the best 11 - but injuries to Johnson and Harris - for mine Hiffa is a welcome inclusion (although Copeland unlucky) ... I'd like to see Couter-Nile overcome his injuries and come into contention )and the same for Cutting)... Despite all the problems with Johnson I would still have him in the side before Hiffa - but as it stands I think his style does create a degree of diversity for the attack and he can bowl long spells. So Hiff, Pattinson (star in making), Siddle (trier like Bichel) and Lyon (very promising) is a decent attack. To be sure the Aus team due to changing of coaches, injuries and other factors meant the team has been constantly changing from series to series under Clarke (from game - game for that matter) - but one thing that is apparent the Aus attack whoever seems to be out on the park is a potent as they have been since the glory days (we have struggled to take 20 wickets since then). The batting just needs to catch up.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2011, 13:50 GMT)

@maxjanu.. umm how can you call johnson a strike bowler? regardless of his 'injury' he was going to be axed immediately for his quite simply dreadful bowling.. averaging something like 55 over the last 18 months at an economy of over 4.5.. but yeah.. strike bowler..........

Posted by   on (December 22, 2011, 13:42 GMT)

ya its ok select him to the tour

Posted by RandyOZ on (December 22, 2011, 11:55 GMT)

@Wefinishthis, I was gonna go into a rant, but you basically said everything I am thinking. Perfect assessment and perfect comments. I will be looking forward to your wise comments from now on.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (December 22, 2011, 11:44 GMT)

@ForwardDefensive, pretty much my view as well, I'm looking forward to watching Pattinson (from Good Yorkshire stock), Starc and Cummin's over the next 12-18 months as they will provide a good challenge to England, especially in seam friendly conditions. Lets face it Hilfenhaus is only there to make up the numbers, while Cummins is laid up.

Posted by maxjanu on (December 22, 2011, 11:32 GMT)

Fast bowlers for Boxing Day are pretty obvious - Harris, Siddle, Pattinson. Pattinson obvious starter after getting a couple of five-for's against NZ, and Siddle has led the bowling attack well. What Australia need is a really attackive bowler, and unfortunately Hilfy isn't one. Harris and Johnson are the strike bowlers for Aus, and seeing as Johnson is injured Harris will be playing, assuming that he is fit as well. If not Starc may come in, but from the little I have seen, he is rubbish. Looking like a promising line up for India, but more so for a couple of years time. Ashes 2013 i expect to see Pattinson, Siddle, Cummins and hopefully still Johnson bowling. No room for Hilfy anywhere though.

Posted by DaveMorton on (December 22, 2011, 10:47 GMT)

Sounds like a load of spin from George Bailey...... and nothing to do with rotating cricket balls. I don't remember McGrath bowling a 'full length' though, as a swing bowler, Hilfenhaus should do so. In any case his time has gone. Oz now has Cummins and Pattinson and Starc to go with the excellent Siddle, plus at last a spinner in Lyon. That's the attack I expect to see in England 2013, with possibly a place for one extra elder-statesman quickie.

Posted by Vindaliew on (December 22, 2011, 9:53 GMT)

What's wrong with replicating the same ball over and over again in Test cricket? Glenn McGrath was universally respected and feared for that. Of course, that ball has to land in the right place...

Posted by anver777 on (December 22, 2011, 9:45 GMT)

Now too many bowling options for Clarke....who will be in the playing XI ??? it will be a big task for Aus selectors !!!!!!

Posted by Matt. on (December 22, 2011, 8:57 GMT)

If we have Siddle and Hilfenhaus as our bowling attack by 2013 I think I'll cry. Don't get me wrong, Siddle is doing ok at the moment, but only ok. It will be sad to see these two working together again after all the promising young pace talent we've seen recently

Posted by subnys on (December 22, 2011, 8:39 GMT)

With due respect to Craig McDermott and his achievements, its not a secret that things have drastically changed from his playing days. If balls are pitched up to the batsmen, they no longer leave it or indulge in cover drives. Switch hits and scooping over the keeper is rampant. These are just a few inventions to name a few. Batsmen playing more of text book cricket go for reverse sweeps and paddle sweeps. I hope all the Aussie quick bowlers are up to the task at hand

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (December 22, 2011, 8:24 GMT)

I sense a lot of spin in some of these articles, which remind me of the type that were written after England had had a bad ashes campaign, with bowlers paying the price by being dropped, then the late summer/winter tour sqaud is announced and the dropped player is now reselected, as he's has remodelled his action, has more pace, more agression, and is now better than before, only for us fans to see exactly the same bowler as before.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2011, 8:03 GMT)

Dont judge Hilfenhaus pace from that single BBL game. Before commenting please remember that he bowled on PERTH surface.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2011, 7:46 GMT)

He's A good bowler he can move the bowl both ways But the prob with him is pace he dosen't steam in so thats why i think he can't perform becoz he's not a tall man he has no bounce an other thing is he can't generate pace he bowling on mid 140 so thats why i think he can't perfrm.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2011, 7:29 GMT)

I have no clue why they are picky hilfenhaus over Hogan who has more wickets, can bat better and has a better average. I saw hilfenhaus at the WACA for a shield match and he didnt even look like getting a wicket. He seems to be swinging the ball in the BB but what would happen if he bowled with a 40-50-60 over old ball.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2011, 7:19 GMT)

Beware Siddle, if Harris makes himself available with full fitness who gonna dropped ? its neither Pattinson nor Hilfenhaus its you !!!!!

Posted by Murtaza96 on (December 22, 2011, 6:59 GMT)

It was not really encouragng to see hilfy making the final 12.... doug bollinger or any othr pacer were bettr becoz hilfy has struggld at tymz

Posted by getaclue on (December 22, 2011, 6:53 GMT)

definately bowling quicker which is a plus. Quick outswing to the right hander/inswing to the left is a great asset. I reckon he will play ahead of Starc....

Posted by Meety on (December 22, 2011, 6:42 GMT)

Hopefully it is not all BS, I remember when Hilfy made his ODI debut, I was quite excited by him. If what they say is right (proof has been in his more recent SS matches), it will be encouraging!

Posted by Wefinishthis on (December 22, 2011, 6:32 GMT)

He is not world class (nor is Siddle). His last 6 innings in shield he has averaged over 40 again without taking more than 4 wickets! He is no better than he was before and he simply does not deserve to be there. If you keep picking players who have awful records and do not look like ever being in the top 10 in the world, then we will never be the no.1 team again and with England and SA vying for that spot, we won't be regaining the ashes in the next 5 years either. The team that does have the potential of being no.1 again (barring injuries) would for the moment look something like: Cowan, Warner, Marsh, Clarke (c), Watson, Lynn, Wade, O'Keefe, Harris, Cummins, Copeland. Res: Pattinson, Lyon, Faulkner, Nevill, Christian, Patterson, Butterworth.

Note that the last series we won we had one of our best bowling attacks in a long time boasting Harris, Copeland and Lyon and that was on batting-assisted wickets! Then they went and changed it all! Why?

Posted by Alexk400 on (December 22, 2011, 6:12 GMT)

He was very good in india in indian flat pitches. He is very good iwth new ball. Not that good in middle overs.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2011, 6:08 GMT)

Good to see Gentle Ben back in Australia's test line up. India will be looking to bat themselves into a bit of form following their mauling by England and a pretty average display against a weak West Indies side, and this will give them a good opportunity.

Posted by satish619chandar on (December 22, 2011, 5:36 GMT)

Hilfy was unplayable in BB but that is different format altogether.. But he ll be confident against Viru as Viru will be over aggressive most times..

Posted by jonesy2 on (December 22, 2011, 5:14 GMT)

as innocuous as he was last summer he basically almost got wickets with every ball to strauss and cook up front they really did struggle with him. watching him in the big bash you can plainly see the change with his hugely increased pace and variations of swing and its a credit to him. him and siddle are completely different bowlers now.

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Daniel BrettigClose
Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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