Test trio show Tasmania's progress
Australia's Test against Pakistan at Lord's this week will be a historic occasion for a number of reasons, not least as the first neutral Test in England since 1912. But when the teams take the field on Tuesday, it will also be a special moment for Australia's smallest state; for the first time three Tasmanians will be playing together in the Test team.
Tim Paine, Ben Hilfenhaus and Ricky Ponting will ensure more than adequate representation for the state, which accounts for only 2% of the nation's population. It has been a long road to this point, for over the first hundred years of Test cricket, Tasmania produced only three Test representatives: Ken Burn, Charles Eady and Laurie Nash, although others like Sam Morris and Max Walker had been born there before moving to the mainland.
Now the state has that many in one team. It's not surprising that it took so long, for until the late 1970s, Tasmania wasn't included in the Sheffield Shield. They won the competition for the first time in 2006-07 and have lifted the state one-day trophy three times in the past six years, so it was only a matter of time before their numbers in the Test outfit grew.
"I think it is a great thing for Tassie cricket," Paine, who will make his debut on Tuesday, said. "The last few years we have started to win some titles down there and I suppose with more team success there has been more individual success so we are starting to build a good group down there. There were three or four guys playing for Australia A last week so it is good that the Tassie boys are starting to be recognised."
In the 1980s, men like Roger Woolley and Greg Campbell broke into the Test team, but David Boon was the man who really put Tasmania on the world cricket map. At the tail end of his career, he handed over to the Launceston boy, Ponting, and they played three Tests together in 1995-96 before Boon's international career ended.
At that stage, Hilfenhaus was 12 and Paine was 11. They'd grown up with Boon as their state hero and watched as Ponting went on to become one of the game's undisputed modern champions.
"Seeing them do really well, it was a goal to look towards," Hilfenhaus said. "[Ponting] definitely gives you a bit of belief, doesn't he? He is one of the greatest players of all time so obviously him being a Tasmanian has been a good thing as well."
For Hilfenhaus, the Lord's Test will not only be a Tasmanian milestone but a personal achievement as well, the culmination of a long period of recovery from knee tendonitis that has kept him out of action since November. He bowled 13 overs in the tour match in Derby, where he collected 1 for 32, and after the match he said he was learning to push through the pain barrier.
"I wouldn't say there's no soreness," Hilfenhaus said. "There's still a bit of a niggle there, and from the reports from the experts it's probably going to hang around for another six to twelve months. But it's at the stage now where it's very manageable and can cope with the workloads."
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo