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).

Posted by jmcilhinney on (July 7, 2012, 6:44 GMT)

That last comment of mine was directed to Marcio.

Posted by reddawn1975 on (July 7, 2012, 6:20 GMT)

Who cares about the test Mozenrath Hilfy near knocked Tendulkars head off twice in Brisbane first ball he bounced him he only just got his bat up in time the ball hit his gloves and flew down to third man where Xavier dropped him thats ok though the next ball Hilfy bounced him again and once again almost knocked his head off the ball went flying from the top edge straight down Xavier throat bottom line is Ben Hilfenhaus is a world class bowler and batsman around the world no that.And the other thing he doesnt big note him self he's playing for his country first not the money.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (July 7, 2012, 3:58 GMT)

It's very convenient to say that Australia haven't lost a series in blah blah blah when, while they may have won the CB Series title, they were actually beaten 4-3 head-to-head by SL in that series. Australia are #1 and they have definitely earned that place with their past results, but to pretend that the current team could have got them to where they were courtesy of their greats of the past is a bit optimistic. They may not have lost in the Caribbean but scraping to a 2-2 draw against an 8th ranked team missing several of their best batsmen is not exactly something to cheer about either. As for us poms thinking that we're masters of the universe, it's more that we think we have a pretty good team on the up, evidenced by the fact that England have so far fairly comfortably beaten an Australia that people like you still seem to consider the equal of their great teams of the past. What will your argument be if Australia lose that #1 spot to England, SA or India over the coming months?

Posted by   on (July 7, 2012, 2:36 GMT)

if we play M Johnson we've lost the ashes already

Posted by   on (July 7, 2012, 2:11 GMT)

@3liteindia Hilfenhaus IS YET TO DISMISSS TENDULKAR IN TESTS. you know that? check some facts before posting.

Posted by RandyOZ on (July 7, 2012, 1:56 GMT)

Will tear it up in the next Ashes. Makes Broad look like a grade cricketer; oh wait...he is.

Posted by   on (July 7, 2012, 1:32 GMT)

It's ironic because during the 1990's and early 2000s, it was always Australia winning. Whoever was playing was guaranteed to be on the winning side be it a test or a series. The departure of legends like McGrath, Warne, Langer, Hayden, Gilchrist, Martyn, Gillespie and Lee have certainly left a void. Those who were tried and tested as replacements have not yet established themselves. Only Hussey and Clarke have done so. Hilfenhaus has so far done well but unlucky not to play a match on this tour. Both he and Siddle put in a lot of work and the young bowlers like Pattinson and Cummins can play a good support role.

Posted by smudgeon on (July 7, 2012, 0:48 GMT)

@Marcio - mate, EVERY TIME i read through the comments sections on this website, i worry about the intelligence of cricket fans in general. thankfully, there's enough bright sparks around here to make it worthwhile. i'm very pleased to hear Hilf talking about his previous issues with his action and also praising the under-rated Ali de Winter. having a huge bag of test wickets under your belt isn't an essential qualification for a bowling coach, guys. i genuinely though Hilf was done at test level after the last Ashes, but he's worked hard and both he and his support team have done an excellent job. English conditions will suit him, and his new action and confidence i think are going to make him a handful. the Aussie top order is still a concern for me, though, but the bowling stocks are looking excellent...

Posted by Meety on (July 6, 2012, 21:36 GMT)

Interesting tidbit of info there "...after McDermott identified several problem areas following the last Ashes series..."

Posted by hhillbumper on (July 6, 2012, 19:57 GMT)

yeah we are quite enjoying the trip as well.It is good to have such a professional team visit.But since the Windies have gone home now guess we have to see the Aussies and their team?

Posted by playitstraight on (July 6, 2012, 19:57 GMT)

Hilfenhaus is the best Australian bowler, currently. We saw what he did to the likes of the great trio of India (Dravid, Laxman, Tendulkar) and what he did in the IPL. @James Badge Wing - Haha, great joke! Not.

Posted by landl47 on (July 6, 2012, 19:01 GMT)

I guess Hilf has been mastering the art of bowling in the nets ahead of next year's Ashes. If he thinks being part of three Ashes defeats is bad, he should think about Ponting and Clarke. It will be defeat number 4 for them. Of course, they've had experience of winning, too, which Hilf hasn't. It was just rather a long time ago.

Posted by 5wombats on (July 6, 2012, 17:28 GMT)

"Ben Hilfenhaus is a man of few words" Sounds very like AA Milne's opening description of Winnie the Pooh.....

Posted by jackthelad on (July 6, 2012, 17:09 GMT)

@ Green & Gold - sorry to be banging on the same old drum - but it's being banged on for reasons. There seems to be a lack of radical thought at the head of cricket Australia; there is a belief that 'any fast bowler is better than any other bowler' (however results might argue to the contrary); that 'All we need to do is tweak here and there and we'll be world beaters again' - alas, there is (Mr. Lee apart) not one current Oz player who could have been sure of his place in the McGrath/Warne/Hayden/Gilchrist/Gillespie era. It took England ten long years to develop a winning team and a winning philosophy, and it has taken WI far longer. Success is never in 'quick-fixes' or 'tweaks'.

Posted by Sakthiivel on (July 6, 2012, 16:55 GMT)

Looking forward for the impact from the Super King..

Posted by VJGS on (July 6, 2012, 16:54 GMT)

I miss the days when Australia had the invincible aura around them. It was amazing to watch few teams like India, SA, England challenge Australia, but never were good enough to dominate for long.

Posted by Marcio on (July 6, 2012, 16:52 GMT)

I love his positive attitude, and that of the team. It won't be long before they bounce back. @jackthelad, it's comments like yours that makes me wonder about the general level of intelligence of cricket fans. AUS is #1 in ODIs because they have not lost a series for a couple of seasons, and have consistently won away from home, including recent wins in SA and SL. (compare that to ENG's 5-0 and 6-1 losses vs IND and AUS during the same period, and ENG being beaten by ireland in the WC, and by ten wickets by SL) AUS have also won 9 of their last 14 test matches. So much for not being in the top four in any form of cricket. 2 ODI wins and you Poms think you are masters of the universe. Check your true ranking: #4.

Posted by no.1_multicultural_team on (July 6, 2012, 16:44 GMT)

What chance Aussie have against world's no.1 multicultural team?

Posted by Green_and_Gold on (July 6, 2012, 16:31 GMT)

@jackthelad - I always hear the type of lines you say ie. its time to rebuild. What do you mean by that exactly. Are they not rebuilding now? - introduction of Baily, Forrest, Wade, Cummins and Patterson into the side. A new coach too so lots of new blood in the side - mate, they are rebuilding and this is the stage where they are learning to play as a team and gaining experience. You will find that Eng and WI also had lots of losses with their teams before they started playing better (esp eng).

Posted by whatawicket on (July 6, 2012, 16:21 GMT)

hes the type of bowler that you would think should do well in english conditions. ( like a Mike Hendricks of Derbyshire ) more so than in aussie we saw how poor he was against us in oz, but we are told hes changed his action we will have to wait and see.

Posted by Aspraso on (July 6, 2012, 16:16 GMT)

Hiffy had a good WI trip and a good IPL and yet he was been wasted on the bench and Johnson was been tried -- speaks very poorly of the Aussie think-tank.

Posted by Fifthman on (July 6, 2012, 15:53 GMT)

A permanent member of the one-day team, perhaps. An Ashes winner? No chance.

Posted by   on (July 6, 2012, 15:52 GMT)

"You always love to beat the Poms" How would he know!

Posted by RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on (July 6, 2012, 15:52 GMT)

Successful stint in da ipl? haha . ya dis year he reduced the height of his fulltosses!!!

Posted by jackthelad on (July 6, 2012, 15:50 GMT)

Technically, Australia may be 'number one' in ODI cricket, by a fairly nonsensical numbers game; in reality, on the field of play, they are not among the top four in any form of practical, bodies-on-the-field cricket. They had a long, long period of supremacy, it's maybe time now that they faced reality instead of blustering, and started seriously to rebuild, as England had to and as the West Indies are doing now.

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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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