Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Hobart, 3rd day December 16, 2012

Hilfenhaus side injury exposes Australia again


Australia face the grim prospect of trying to win a Test with only three specialist bowlers for the second time in three matches after Ben Hilfenhaus shuffled off Bellerive Oval with a left side strain that has placed him in doubt for the rest of the Sri Lanka series.

After bowling the second ball of his 13th over to Sri Lanka's vice-captain Angelo Mathews, Hilfenhaus grimaced, felt for his hip or side, spoke briefly to his captain Michael Clarke and left the field, leaving Shane Watson to complete the over.

He later left the ground for further medical examination, and the team physio Alex Kountouris said Hilfenhaus was now doubtful for the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne. The New Year's Test in Sydney follows only three days after the end of the MCG match, a tight timeframe for fit bowlers, let alone those recovering from injury.

"With Ben, we'll probably know more in 24 hours. But it's probably doubtful, the fact that he's not bowling right now, you'd think there's going to be considerable doubt [for Melbourne]," Kountouris said. "It's on the milder side but not mild enough to be able to bowl in the second innings.

"These sorts of things, if you miss a week then you miss two weeks because they're not like batsmen who in a week's time they can get back and play. Bowlers need to come back, bowl a few times, prove that they're fit, make sure they've got through some sessions because we obviously can't put them in a Test match with any doubt."

Hilfenhaus had been considered alongside Peter Siddle one of the two durable, senior bowlers to be relied upon across the summer. They were outlined as critical to Australia's planning as the youthful group including Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood could be rotated around them.

Of that quartet, only Starc has reached this point of the summer without being sidelined, while John Hastings, called up when both Siddle and Hilfenhaus missed the Perth Test against South Africa, is recovering from a back injury.

Siddle and Hilfenhaus were unable to be considered for the WACA match as a direct result of Pattinson's withdrawal midway through the draining Adelaide Test due to a side/rib injury, which left the older duo with a heavy workload across the second innings.

Nathan Lyon was also leaned on heavily in Pattinson's absence, and he, Siddle and Starc and can now expect another hefty shift while Hilfenhaus convalesces. Watson's return to the team in the interim as an allrounder will be of some help to Clarke's bowling options, but Australia's captain is reluctant to overbowl his deputy out of fear it will both detract from his batting and also cause another round of injury.

Pattinson, meanwhile, had exrpessed hope while watching the Melbourne Stars' BBL match at the MCG on Saturday evening that he might recover in time to be considered for the latter Sri Lanka Tests. Kountouris ruled out that possibility.

"When it comes to James, he's going to start bowling next week or this week sometime," Koutnouris said. "But I don't think he's going to have enough time to build up his workloads enough to be able to play on Boxing Day and probably the New Year's Test. The original plan for him was not to play those Tests and it's probably looking like that's what's going to happen."

Hilfenhaus' bowling has been the subject of considerable scrutiny so far this summer, as he appeared to lapse into the bad habits that bedevilled him during the 2010-11 Ashes series following a year punctuated by lots of Twenty20 assignments and precious little first-class cricket.

When Hilfenhaus was recalled after missing the Perth Test, having picked up a slight knee niggle in Adelaide while wrestling with his bowling action, the national selector John Inverarity described his halting progress, which has required plenty of time with Australia's bowling coach Ali de Winter.

"The history with Ben, he was doing well then the last series against England in Australia [in 2010-11] he didn't bowl to his highest level," Inverarity said. "He got things sorted out, a few niggles were sorted out and he got his bowling action right, and his bowling last summer was superb. He bowled at good pace and very well.

"His bowling in the first Test was a bit like against England, it wasn't as good as he'd hoped. So he needs to get 100% fit to perform, and his action so that he bowls like he did against India last summer, and we're hopefully that during this little break he'll be back to that sort of form."

In Hobart, Hilfenhaus did not generate his customary outswing, and struggled early on for his line as he drifted too often into the pads of Tillakaratne Dilshan. This angle proved more profitable against Dimuth Karunaratne, as a ball running across the left-hander caught an outside edge on the way through to Matthew Wade. As things stand, it will be his last major contribution to this match, and possibly the series.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Brendan on December 18, 2012, 4:58 GMT

    Bowling attack in Melbourne should be Peter Siddle obviously, Mitchell Starc and Ben Cutting or Nacthan Coulter-Nile. NEED DIFFERENT SPINNER (Lyon does not take wickets.)Cowan needs to be dropped. Khawaja to replace Clarke and Steve Smith to bat at 5 and everybody slide up one. 1.Warner 2.Hughes 3.Khawaja 4.Watson 5.Smith 6.Hussey 7. Wade (wk)

  • Liam on December 18, 2012, 4:34 GMT

    Hilfy has been badly underperforming this season and I see this as almost a blessing in disguise, I say almost because there is noboy left to take his place! @reddawn1975 Don't feed the troll! He's the type that only shows up when his team has won and to outdo the other regular trolls, don't waste your time.

  • Jim on December 17, 2012, 22:00 GMT

    As a neutral, this can only be good for Aus. From what i have seen there is 10 bowlers in aus better than Hilfenhaus. Same goes for Lyon.

    Is Hilfy's dadd the coach or something?

  • j on December 17, 2012, 11:26 GMT

    @reddawn1975: "Australian cricket is on the verge of so big moves and changes and some very exciting talent"

    The sad thing is that Australian fans have been saying that for years, ever since the retirement of Warne&Mcgrath. And every time Australia remain stagnant or go backwards. Remember Phil Hughes, the 'next Bradman'? lol. If you missed them, check out the DVD for the 2009 Ashes. England have just been far superior to Australia for so many years, not even your most brainless fans would deny that. Meanwhile, whilst Australia remain minnows, England ride high and set new records in places like India.

  • matt on December 17, 2012, 10:32 GMT

    Why is Hilfenhaus still playing Front foot Lunge and i reckon that's your only shot.Its because he is a dam good bowler his lines are great hey keeps it tight and mate he can bowl and bowl and bowl until well finally cops a nasty injury.There are plenty of quicks running around Australia at the moment i think the guy to watch out for and i am not from WA is Nathan Coulter Nile and Kane Richardson and Mitch Johnson correct me if im wrong bowled very very well in Perth and he's not exactly old so i think Australian cricket is on the verge of so big moves and changes and some very exciting talent

  • Per on December 17, 2012, 9:41 GMT

    @johntycodes : "Can't believe lyon gets a game". He gets a game 'caus he's the best test bowler in Aus! Have you SEEN him bowl? Or are you just regurgitating comments from others? He was Oz's LEADING wicket taker againt SA! You know - the Saffers - the nr 1 team in the world. The team that Aus nearly knocked over but for Du Plessis - he was the trumfcard. Back to Lyon - Granted he has very little experience, but he's still the best Oz has to offer & for once since Warnie/McGillie retired they seem to be sticking with one guy & giving him a fair go.

  • Mashuq on December 17, 2012, 8:05 GMT

    Question to @johntycodes: who would you have to replace Lyon atm?

  • brenta on December 17, 2012, 4:28 GMT

    Well obviously the managinf workload and the sport science that australia employ into all the bowlers to get 100% use of equipment and everything else is not working. So don't do it, get out there and train hard every day and run these bowlers into the ground to get the fitness base up instead of wrapping them in cotton wool like kids. Well for this match lyon will no doubt fail again just like he has done in every second innings bowling performance from us this year and we won't win. Can't believe lyon gets a game.

  • Dummy4 on December 17, 2012, 4:04 GMT

    Surely Jackson Bird deserves a chance and why in the world has Trent Copeland been forgotten?

  • Joe on December 17, 2012, 1:45 GMT

    @maf17 "Is it too much to hope he'll also get a side strain from carrying the drinks?" It is, considering he's not carrying the drinks! He left on the first day of the Hobart Test to play some Big Bash, I believe. That's why Jordan Silk was fielding all day yesterday for Australia. That said, maybe 4 overs in T20 is a bit of a better chance of injury - you're not out of luck!

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