Ben Hilfenhaus matures into all-terrain operator
Ricky Ponting is confident Ben Hilfenhaus has developed into a fast man who can excel in any conditions. Hilfenhaus is a swing bowler by trade but has shown Ponting that he can cope when the ball is not arcing around and the skills were on show with a Man-of-the-Match performance at the Gabba.
While the haul of 2 for 50 and 3 for 20 in the innings win was not remarkable, he dismantled West Indies' top order in a seven-over burst in the second innings and twice removed the captain Chris Gayle with lbw decisions. The ball swung at times but Hilfenhaus also showed he could bring his length back and still cause trouble, convincing Ponting he has swung from a specialist to an all-terrain operator.
"He has and that comes with a bit of experience," Ponting said. "I think I had him earmarked for a couple of series quite a while ago and you look at South Africa over there and the England tour we just returned from, they were series that I always felt he could play a big part in. But then if you look back to the Ashes there were a lot of conditions there that probably didn't suit his style of bowling, but he managed to find a way to get the job done."
Hilfenhaus has just finished his ninth Test and has 34 wickets at 30.58, which have been achieved mainly as a support act to Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle. Twenty-two of those victims came in swing-friendly England and those performances made him realise he could cope as international bowler.
"Towards the end of the England series I felt as though my rhythm was good and I was doing a job for team," Hilfenhaus said. "That was the time I started to feel more comfortable and knew my role better."
He took the new ball at the Gabba and picked up Gayle on the second day before adding four wickets on Saturday. Ponting gave him only one spell in the final innings and that resulted in the removal of Gayle, who offered no shot to an inswinger, the played-on of Travis Dowlin and a miscued pull from Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Suddenly the tourists were 3 for 39 and had no chance of saving the game.
"Today I'm even more pleased for him, to come out in the second innings and get the early wickets that we needed," Ponting said. "I sort of put it on him to try and get Gayle out the way and he did at the start of the second innings. When you can ask a bowler to do a certain job for you and they can do it, regardless of what the situation the game is in or the conditions they're bowling in, means they are executing really well. And that's what you want as a captain." Hilfenhaus has another chance to satisfy his captain's demands in the second Test in Adelaide from Friday.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo