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Starc, Hilfenhaus battle for conditioning

Daniel Brettig

October 30, 2012

Comments: 22 | Text size: A | A

Mitchell Starc delivers the ball, Titans v Sydney Sixers, 2nd semi-final, Champions League T20, Centurion, October 26, 2012
Mitchell Starc is still six kilograms underweight a little more than a week from the first Test © Getty Images

Mitchell Starc admits to being six kilograms underweight and feeling run down. Ben Hilfenhaus has not delivered a red ball in anger since April.

At their best both Starc and Hilfenhaus are incisive Test match bowlers, but how close to their best can they possibly be in time for the first match against South Africa in Brisbane?

On the same day Starc returned home from a highly successful but not altogether helpful run of Twenty20 matches that began in the UAE against Pakistan in September and concluded with the Champions League final victory with Sydney, Hilfenhaus bowled his first spell in Australia since last summer. Quite understandably, he struggled for rhythm, returning a modest 1 for 74 from 13 overs.

From Thursday Hilfenhaus will return to first-class combat in the Sheffield Shield, ahead of the Gabba Test, and Starc will join him in whites from Friday. They are likely to be duelling for the final spot in Australia's bowling attack, given that Peter Siddle and James Pattinson are in far better condition due to their not being required at the CLT20.

"I'm really looking forward to a red ball. It's been a few months of white ball cricket," Starc said. "I'm looking forward to picking up a red ball in preparation for a Shield match starting this Friday first of all and in preparation for this Test if I get the call-up. My main focus is the Shield game against Queensland.

"There have been a lot of workload issues and the bowling coach has come over to South Africa to look after the Australian guys as well. I'm pretty happy with the amount of balls I've been bowling over the last few months. There's no secret we've been doing stuff outside of training to make up the numbers."

The numbers Starc will be equally keen to make up are those on the scales, given he lost seven kilograms due to a gastric complaint in Sri Lanka, and his efforts to recover them were hampered by a follow-up illness in South Africa. While Starc's speed and swing were largely unaffected in the short bursts T20 requires, his stamina will be open to question.

"I'm doing a lot better now," Starc said. "Obviously I'm still down on energy. I lost weight in Sri Lanka and was sick again in South Africa. I got over that and was pretty happy with the way the ball was coming out in South Africa."

Another query for Starc is the matter of controlling the red ball as well as he has the white. Some time in England with Yorkshire and Australia A has helped, but he was less consistent in those matches than he managed for the Sixers both in Australia last summer and South Africa this month.

"They're both Kookaburra balls so I've taken a lot of confidence how the ball has come out over the last few months," Starc said. "For me the main thing was playing a lot of cricket back to back, starting with Yorkshire in England.

"To play a lot of games there and carry through the last few tours I've gained a lot of confidence out of that. "The ball is coming out now with a bit more consistency and a bit more swing."

As for Hilfenhaus, the surfeit of T20 matches has stretched the patience of his laconic visage, so much so that he spoke of getting away from the white ball in the sort of tone a weary accountant might reserve for getting away from the office.

"It was good to be out there more than 20 overs, legs will be a bit heavy tomorrow for sure," Hilfenhaus told Fox Sports. "Looking forward to the Shield game and getting into the red ball groove. Very important I think to get the red ball in hand, get your line and length and get away from the white ball for a little bit."

The next seven days will be vital for Starc and Hilfenhaus, and by this time next week the national selectors are likely to know which one is most ready for, and thus most likely to play at, the Gabba.

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

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Posted by zenboomerang on (November 2, 2012, 6:21 GMT)

@Brannavan Ramachandran... Agree & Hilfenhaus world ranking against seamers is behind Steyn, Philander & just below Anderson which shows his class while he is above Broad, Morkel... When the younger bowlers can prove that they can handle a 6 Test summer then we can look at them but its not going to happen this summer - though Starc has shown to be the most resilent of the young guys so he may move about Pattinson in the future...

Posted by   on (November 1, 2012, 10:53 GMT)

how ridiculous to even have to consider. Hilfenhous should be the first pic in Australia's bowling attack. He is ranked 6 in the world for a reason. His record also speaks for itself and he is the best genuine swing bowler in the country. He should be leading the attack

Posted by Wozza-CY on (October 31, 2012, 19:38 GMT)

I'm just glad Mitchell Johnsons name is not in the mix at the moment. I think with Watson in the team and bowling....Lyon has to play. If it comes down to Starc or Hilf, I don't think either of them will let us down.

Posted by   on (October 31, 2012, 17:05 GMT)

Whether or not Starcy plays in the first test, I think he'll be pencilled in as a permanent figure by the end of the summer. Who else in world cricket is 2 metres tall, bowls at 140kmph and swings it around? What you see at the moment is a mere work in progress and he's already leading wicket tallies in major competitions (albeit T20's). Huge potential.

Posted by zenboomerang on (October 31, 2012, 13:05 GMT)

@warrenwhite... Yeah your right mate... Hilfy has been the stock bowler for Oz for the last few years - even Siddle can't keep up with him... Everyone else - go back over the last few Oz summer Tests & tell me who bowled more overs than Hilfy... lol... Yep, no one...

Posted by warrenwhite on (October 31, 2012, 9:31 GMT)

Very unfair on hilfy. wasn't his first spell 1/18. Bad second spell would have been no more than n 5 overs in a test. Say 25 runs. Please watch the domestic games before commenting

Posted by Fyfie on (October 31, 2012, 6:06 GMT)

Since when was Starc an "incisive test bowler"? He's seriously overrated. Hopefully he gets moved on as soon as one of Cummins or Harris is fit.

Posted by Naren on (October 31, 2012, 4:59 GMT)

If Starc is not picked, Australia would fail badly. He is the only bowler looking like taking wickets of the five bowlers picked in the 12. Batting is also very brittle. Shane Watson has to shine and hopefully David Warner would also stand up as he need not play against a spin bowler in the first couple of days.

Posted by Meety on (October 31, 2012, 4:25 GMT)

@ Gilly4ever on (October 31 2012, 01:45 AM GMT) - I know at the end of the day a bowler's success is judged by the numbers in the wicket column, & I know that sometimes (more depending on your opinion), that people like to blow wind up players preverbials. But before you say whether or not Lyon & Hilfy are out of form, let's wait until after this weeks games. Lyon from the bits I've seen & read, nowled better than his stats have suggested, with the Shield game against Tassie - I think he had about 3 fluffed catches. Hilfy at the moment has next to no form guide, although in the main bowled well on the occasions he bowled in the Champ League. You don't rate Siddle highly, but by all accounts was brilliant in his last Gabba start, you rate Starc highly - yet he has questionably not much more "form" than Hilfy - T20 form! The likely BIG mistake the Saffas will make is making AB the Keeper - it will backfire.

Posted by Ozcricketwriter on (October 31, 2012, 1:45 GMT)

Assuming that they make Lyon the 12th man, I see Pattinson and Starc getting all of the wickets, them against the world, as it were, with Hilfenhaus and Siddle doing little more than holding up one end. In the batting stakes, in-form Ricky Ponting is going to shoulder a lot of the burden, probably along with Michael Hussey. Ed Cowan will probably be rolled twice in a row for golden ducks. This could be tough for Australia. I would like to think that Australia will get over the line but this could be a close one. If Philander keeps up with his air of immortality then any mistakes by having the likes of Jacques Rudolph in their line up won't be exposed too much. This could be a very close contest. Australia are looking at playing as many as 2 out of form bowlers (Lyon and Hilfenhaus) and will probably also play the woefully out of form Ed Cowan. They all need to snap back into form for Australia to win this.

Posted by Stevo_ on (October 30, 2012, 23:58 GMT)

@Gilly4ever. Cummins wouldn't last a day in the field and Johnson is a shot duck. Starc should be nowhere near the test setup either. Bad choices by the selectors are going to hurt us and Starc is shaping as being that bad choice

Posted by markatnotts on (October 30, 2012, 23:48 GMT)

What has happened to all the talk of Oz having the second best seam attack in the world. Or even as some have said, the best all round. The best comfort you can have is SA, bottle more against Oz than England. Seriously though I am looking forward to this series and a rip roaring contest between two quality teams. Let battle begin, and all to enjoy!

Posted by   on (October 30, 2012, 23:07 GMT)

Warner, Cowan, Watson, Ponting, Clarke, Hussey, Wade, Siddle, Pattinson, Starc, Lyon. Lyon got 4fa in Brisbane last year on the first day. Leaving him out is the stupidest move in history, stupider than not playing Hauritz in the 09 ashes. We have 4 pace bowlers, don't need 5. Unless Katich or North were playing.... Lyon has to play, Starc has to play.... I'd be more inclined to leave out Pattinson, he performed the worst in his last test. Lot's of potential at the moment just need the right balance.

Posted by dongles on (October 30, 2012, 23:07 GMT)

Since reigniting his career last summer, Hilfie has taken 37 wickets at 18.19 and I believe he is an automatic selection. I think Daniel's supposition that Hilfenhaus and Starc are vying for one spot is off the mark. Fortunately, in John Inverarity we have the most astute selection panel for a long time, and I'm sure sanity will prevail. Starc's only chance for Brisbane is if Lyon does not play.

Posted by   on (October 30, 2012, 19:12 GMT)

Why is Cummins not in contention for a test spot?

Posted by raghavan88 on (October 30, 2012, 16:48 GMT)

The series will be a 1-1 draw.Gabba and WACA will produce results while the subcontinental Adelaide Track will end in a huge runfest.

Posted by landl47 on (October 30, 2012, 14:40 GMT)

Some of these comments seem to ignoire the fact that Aus has already named its squad for thest test. Lyon is in, Mitch Johnson is not. Watson is a very handy 4th seamer, so what would be the point in playing 4 specialist seamers? With regard to match fitness, SA are in the same boat as Aus. Morne Morkel played in the champions league, Steyn has only played the T20WC since England and Philander has played a couple of first-class games. Starc's fitness for a test must be an issue, but I always thought he'd be 12th man anyway. Basically everything is playing out as expected.

Posted by Tigg on (October 30, 2012, 13:04 GMT)

A couple of points. Firstly I don't see how Starc can be called an 'incisive Test match bowler' with best innings figures of 2/29.

Secondly, I don't think much can be read into Hilfys 1/74 in a list a match. He's never been much cop in limited overs cricket (he averages 37 in ODIs and just over 35.5 in all list a). First class has always been his format.

Posted by TexanBlue on (October 30, 2012, 11:28 GMT)

Quite surprising that the selectors named both in the squad for the 1st test knowing fully that both are way short of match practice in the long format. Hilfy hasn't bowled since last summer in 1st class cricket yet got included? Will he get match practice in the test? RSA will surely love to exploit the rustiness of Aussie bowlers. For Starc, if he's under cooked for the 5-day games then he must not be included in the final XI as that will only hurt his confidence. Only fully fit and raring to go attack their opposition bowlers like Pattinson and Siddle should play. Anyways, for the sake of variety, Aussies must play 1 left arm pace bowler. Anyone knows where's Mitch Johnson? He is not seen on the radar these days.

Posted by Meety on (October 30, 2012, 10:31 GMT)

Really like to see Starc playing, but I think Hilfy will be more able to cope with the demands of Test cricket off the back of the overseas jaunts!

Posted by Ozcricketwriter on (October 30, 2012, 10:12 GMT)

No no no no no. This is all wrong. Nathan Lyon should be out of contention, as should Ben Hilfenhaus, while Mitchell Starc should be certain of his spot. The 4th and final spot should be out of Pat Cummins and Mitchell Johnson. Oh dear. If Mitchell Starc doesn't play then this is going to go badly. Nathan Lyon has averaged 55 in the last 2 months. He is woefully out of form and can't play.

Posted by disco_bob on (October 30, 2012, 10:12 GMT)

6 kilos underweight, that doesn't sound good. I remember when my brother used to follow the greyhounds some 40 years ago, he'd know exactly what weight a dog had to be within 1lb (500g) to be worth a bet. So Starc admitting to be 6ks under his known best weight would sort of rule him out for the Gabba. We can't muck around with SA, everyone has to be 100%

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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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