England v Australia, NatWest Series, Chester-le-Street

Hilfenhaus values Ashes reconnaissance

Daniel Brettig

July 6, 2012

Comments: 35 | Text size: A | A

Ben Hilfenhaus picked up three early wickets, Chennai Super Kings v Delhi Daredevils, IPL 2012, Chennai, May 12, 2012
Despite not being a consistent starter in Australia's limited-overs teams, Ben Hilfenhaus enjoyed a successful IPL © AFP

Ben Hilfenhaus is a man of few words, so to hear him speak passionately of a desire to avoid a third consecutive Ashes defeat is to gain a rare glimpse of the Tasmanian's drive. A valiant performer in England in 2009 but a less illustrious one in Australia in 2010-11, Hilfenhaus let his usual public guard down when casting his mind forward to 2013.

Having reconstructed his bowling action and added diversity to his approach following a horrid tilt at England last time around, Hilfenhaus is now a valued part of Australia's Test side. He is a more peripheral character in ODI cricket, as demonstrated by his sitting out the first two matches of this series. Nonetheless, Hilfenhaus has found reconnaissance value in the trip to England, and two defeats have clearly stirred up the pain of previous Ashes encounters.

"I definitely think we've got unfinished business," Hilfenhaus said. "I've lost two Ashes series now. I definitely don't want to be a part of a third losing one that's for sure, and I think there are a lot of blokes who feel exactly the same way. I'm not looking too far ahead at this stage, but it will be a pretty big series for us.

"You always love to beat the Poms. We didn't have the ideal start to the one-day series and I think in the last two games of the series we're definitely going to show them what we are made of, that we are the No.1 team in the world. It's nice to be playing in these conditions and get a feel for them again, and just have a little reminder of the things we need to work on."

Accompanying Hilfenhaus and the rest of Australia's bowlers on the tour is the Tasmania bowling coach Ali de Winter, a contender for the full-time role vacated earlier this year by Craig McDermott. Hilfenhaus and de Winter have developed a rich understanding over the years and, after McDermott identified several problem areas following the last Ashes series, de Winter was the man to put his bowling action back together, with the aid of extensive fitness and strength work following two years of knee niggles.

"He noticed my action had changed a little bit and realised what we needed to change to get back to where we wanted it. He definitely played a very big role in that," Hilfenhaus said. "I had a bit of time off and got the body strong again and slowly worked on it, and still will continue to work on it every day to make sure old habits don't creep back in.

"I find the body is weird. Just about every fast bowler's got niggles and whatever else, but in my case my action changed a little bit because of that, without me ever knowing. That was a bit of a wake-up call to keep an eye on those things, to make sure in the future it doesn't happen again."

Waqar Younis is another authority on fast bowling to have raised his hand for the Cricket Australia job, and like McDermott would offer a wealth of knowledge derived from bowling in Test matches. De Winter's path to the same job is rather different but Hilfenhaus said his mentor was as adept at tactical advice as technical tweaks.

"I personally find that he is very good technically to me, he understands the way I bowl pretty well, and he picks up things really easy," Hilfenhaus said. "Tactically he is very good as well, but for me personally it is more the technical side of things. I am sure he is having a look at everyone else's actions as well and trying to find ways to help them improve.

Ben Hilfenhaus toiled hard without luck as Alastair Cook ploughed on, Australia v England, 4th Test, Melbourne, December 26, 2010
Ben Hilfenhaus had a tough time during the 2010-11 Ashes © Getty Images

"If I am doing things technically correct, that will help my chances at the other end, and some other people might be different. Some people need to be told all these tactics about bowling and these sorts of things, someone like myself I need to be told to keep things technically correct to give myself the best chance to perform my skills.

"I rate Ali pretty highly and I'm sure once the other blokes have had a bit more to do with him, they'll say exactly the same thing."

George Bailey, the Tasmania captain and a fellow England tourist this year, has said that Hilfenhaus has at times needed to be convinced of change being worthwhile in order to carry through with it. In the past 12 months he has done plenty of learning, including a successful stint in the IPL, and so far is reaping rewards from a more open-minded approach.

"To be honest I do like staying in my comfort zone a little bit, I like sticking to the things that I know work," Hilfenhaus said. "I still have a few things to prove in the shorter form of the game, I'll keep chipping away and hopefully my skills can get to the stage where I'm a permanent member."

A permanent member of the one-day team, and an Ashes winner, perhaps.

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

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Posted by HatsforBats on (July 8, 2012, 9:44 GMT)

@5wombats; cheers mate, if he's lucky I'll take him to England for his birthday to watch some Ashes.

Posted by 5wombats on (July 7, 2012, 16:48 GMT)

@HatsforBats - goodonyer. Good luck and best wishes for the future - 5wombats.

Posted by   on (July 7, 2012, 12:32 GMT)

@Steve Gregory Yeah, Johnson is a serious liability. But sadly we're stuck with him because Hilditch signed him up with a special contract when his form was in the gutter. Even after he's gone Hilditch can screw up the team! The one thing we have in our favour is the Poms still haven't twigged Hilfenhaus has turned into the real deal, as shown by some fellows in these comments.

Posted by HatsforBats on (July 7, 2012, 12:23 GMT)

Hi folks, sorry Ive been away (first child expected any day now). Just a quick question; who honestly thinks this is THE best side Aus can field? Bailey, Forrest, Smith, Doherty are pretenders to the throne. I fail to see how a side can win when a 3rd of their side is inconsequential. This is the best side Engalnd have available (thanks to the ECB & KP), that's why we see the discrepancy now. As for Hilhenhaus; he's a classy bowler and it's great to see him playing without injury.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (July 7, 2012, 9:21 GMT)

No Marcio, I don't want to count just the preliminary games. I want to count the entire series. SL won 3 preliminary games and 1 final while Australia won 1 preliminary game and 2 finals. That's 4-3 to SL overall. That's a point I've never heard a single Australia fan make reference to. It was not my intention to cherry pick results to prove England good and Australia poor, but rather to point out a few results that seem to be conveniently overlooked by some.

Posted by Marcio on (July 7, 2012, 9:00 GMT)

Of course, that should have been 2-1 for the AUS-SL finals.

Posted by Marcio on (July 7, 2012, 8:48 GMT)

Talk about cherry picking and straw me, @jmcilhinney! SL lost the finals 3-2, and AUS beat then in SL shortly before that, bouth in the ODIs and tests. Yet you just want to count the preliminary games in AUS, LOL! And who are these Australian people who think AUS is a great side? Please do name them. Certainly not me. All I'm doing is pointing out the simple fact that they have been doing well in the last 18 months, a period that has seen mostly away series played in BANG, SL, SA, WI and now ENG. That the results are predominantly very good is an indisputable fact. Maybe you are thinking of RandyOz. But if you take his posts seriously you need to get your head checked!

Posted by Always-positive on (July 7, 2012, 8:24 GMT)

Ben Hilfenhaus QWoute: It's nice to be playing in these conditions and get a feel for them again, and just have a little reminder of the things we need to work on."

Australia's little reminder of things to work on:

Batsmen who can bat ( and don't just "talk" about how good they are). Bowlers who can take wickets. ( remeber when you could do that !!) A spinner who knows what that means. Someone to raise morale in the dressing room ( tick, got Steve Smith , pity about his cricket skills !)

Apart from that your the "number 1" side in the world (yay !!) you lot must feel really proud about that ;-)

Posted by Always-positive on (July 7, 2012, 8:12 GMT)

Including Hilfenhaus in the next Ashes ( oh please please please ) just shows how poor the depth in Aus bowling is ( lets not talk about their batting !!)

Posted by Snick_To_Backward_Point on (July 7, 2012, 7:03 GMT)

Marcio, your comments are uncannily similar to many of the Indian fans on the threads before last Summer's 8-0 whitewash i.e. big on talk (bluster and denial) short on walk (results).

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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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