Ben Hilfenhaus hopes to be available for the upcoming Test series against Pakistan after becoming the forgotten man of Australia's team over the past six months. Hilfenhaus hasn't played since the first Test of the home summer, when he was the Man of the Match against West Indies at the Gabba.
Tendonitis in his left knee created so much pain the day after a long bowling spell that he could barely walk, but he is set for a challenging comeback for Australia A in Brisbane on Friday. All eyes will be on Hilfenhaus at Allan Border Field as he tackles Sri Lanka A over the next four days, and he wants to prove himself fit for July's two Tests against Pakistan in England.
"The biggest test is getting through this three or four days of cricket," Hilfenhaus told Cricinfo. "I'm very confident that will be the case and then hopefully I'll be available for selection. Then it's up to them whether they want to pick me on the form I'm in. I've still got to come out here and bowl well and pull up well."
One of the problems for Hilfenhaus is that while he has been nursing his injury, Doug Bollinger and Ryan Harris have firmly established their baggy-green credentials. Clint McKay has also played Test cricket in the absence of Hilfenhaus, who knows that after such a long lay-off he will need to prove to the selectors that he is still the same bowler who troubled West Indies in November.
"It's very hard to change a winning side," he said. "Everyone gets opportunities through blokes being injured and things like that. That's a good challenge for me. Any injury is bad timing. I'm over this injury now and hopefully it goes away for ever and I can continue playing some good cricket."
The uncertainty of how long he would be sidelined was a major frustration for Hilfenhaus, who originally attempted a club cricket comeback in December. He wasn't expecting to be out for the entire summer, but he is confident that showing patience and not rushing his return has been a good move.
"The pain factor was the reason why I had to stop playing cricket," he said. "It got to the point where I couldn't even walk properly the day after bowling. That was a reason why we had to go down the long road and do the rehab.
"The high-scale pain has gone away. There's always going to be a niggle there for the next 12 months or so, so they tell me. I've got to find a way to keep pushing through that and get confidence to keep loading it."
Hilfenhaus is well ahead of his fast-bowling colleague Peter Siddle in the recovery stakes. In February, Siddle was ruled out for the season with a back problem and he is targeting a return before the Ashes. Australia's Test squad to play Pakistan will be named after the Australia A match.