Benjamin William Hilfenhaus
March 15, 1983, Ulverstone, Tasmania
Right hand bat
Right arm fast medium
The journey took a little longer than expected, but Ben Hilfenhaus picked up a baggy green in 2008-09 to re-confirm his status as one of Australia's bowling stars. While back and knee injuries have worn him down at times, he pushed through the problems to join Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle in a bowling attack that could become frightening if the trio stays together. Hilfenhaus swings the ball at speed and gained seven South African wickets in the three games before going home to rest his back ahead of the Ashes tour.
He starred in England, leading the series wicket-list with 22, and gained approving nods from the local seam bowlers with his combination of movement in the air and off the wicket. After being Man of the Match in his first home Test in 2009-10, he missed the rest of the summer with knee tendonitis that took more than six months to ease. Back in England for the Pakistan series, his eight wickets in the two games were no surprise, but his 56 not out at Lord's was.
Hilfenhaus was able to lay down his trowel after a series of dramatic performances in his first two seasons catapulted him to a national contract in 2007. Two years earlier, Hilfenhaus was earning money on a building site, but his ability to shape the ball away at 140kph earned a six-figure pay packet. "It has been a fast ride," he said after picking up the Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year prize in February 2007. A month earlier he represented Australia for the first time in a one-day international on his home ground at Hobart, taking only 12 balls to get his maiden wicket when he trapped Brendon McCullum.
A strong and fit man from Ulverstone in northern Tasmania, Hilfenhaus is only the second fast bowler from the state to play for Australia after Greg Campbell, Ricky Ponting's uncle. While shaping the ball away is his specialty, he can also angle it in and his repertoire was crucial to the Tigers' maiden Pura Cup victory in 2006-07. Hilfenhaus' 60 wickets at 25.38, the third most in the competition's history, included three five-wicket hauls, but his back-breaking workload means he is always an injury candidate. He delivered 509.1 overs in the first-class arena that summer, nearly 200 more than any of his domestic fast-bowling counterparts. His collection of 28 wickets at 43.82 in 2007-08 was not the follow-up campaign he wanted but the selectors showed faith and chose him in Australia's Test squad to visit the West Indies in 2008, although he was later ruled out due to a recurrence of stress fractures in his back.
In his opening season Hilfenhaus quickly built a strong reputation and after 39 wickets at 30.82 was named in the Australia A squad for the Top End series. A former national under-19 representative, he also accepted an invitation to return to the Academy after first attending the facility when it was based in Adelaide in 2002. He was Man of the Match in his second game against Victoria and his first-season highlight was a ten-wicket haul, including 7 for 58, against New South Wales.
Peter English July 2010
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