Has Hilfenhaus played his last Test?

Sam Goodwin December 20, 2012, 2:03 pm

The side strain that forced fast bowler Ben Hilfenhaus out of the first Test against Sri Lanka in Hobart is not only threatening to rule the Tasmanian out for the rest of the summer, it could also spell the end of his Test career.

Should Hilfenhaus be unavailable for the rest of the summer as predicted, whoever replaces him has an invaluable opportunity to cement a spot on the Australia Test side for years to come.

Hilfenhaus could very easily join the list of Australian Test cricketers who have left the team through injury and not been able to force their way back into the side.

Phil Jaques played 11 Tests from 2005-2008, scoring 902 runs at an average of 47.47. In his final Test match at Bridgetown against the West Indies, the left-handed opening batsmen scored a classy century, the third hundred of his short career.

But a severe back injury that would eventually lead to three operations forced Jaques out of the Test side and he was never able to regain the kind of form that saw him wearing the baggy green.

Brett Lee played 76 Tests from 1999-2008, taking 310 wickets at an average of 30.81. The fiery quick’s career was plagued with injuries however and after picking up a side strain and rib injury in a practice match before the 2009 Ashes series, he was overlooked for a recall upon his return to full fitness.

He subsequently announced his retirement from Test cricket in 2010 having not been selected for Australia in two years.

And Ben Hilfenhaus could easily be the next Phil Jaques or Brett Lee.

The tall right-armer has had an underwhelming summer, taking just seven wickets in 113 overs. He has been notably down on pace, his arm height has been lower than in the past and the swing and bounce that he is known for has been absent.

And although he is now the seventh front line fast bowler behind James Pattinson, Patrick Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Ryan Harris, Trent Copeland and John Hastings to be sidelined through injury, there is a whole host of talented youngsters waiting in the wings to take his spot.

With Peter Siddle the only paceman guaranteed of a spot in the Boxing Day Test match, there are two vacant positions for someone to show why they should be wearing the baggy green on a regular basis.

Mitchell Starc has made the most of his limited opportunities in the Test side and Mitchell Johnson seems to be back in favour with the selectors after taking six wickets in the third Test against South Africa in Perth.

When fit, James Pattinson has a mortgage on a baggy green, claiming 31 wickets in his first seven matches at an average of 22.09. And 19-year-old Patrick Cummins will surely be a star of the future after taking seven wickets in his one and only Test against South Africa in 2011.

But beyond the men who have already worn the baggy green, there are a number of uncapped speedsters on the horizon.

Hazlewood and Ben Cutting have already been involved with the Australian side after being included in various Test squads for the last two years. Both are the type of young firebrand who can extract seam and bounce that the Aussies desperately need.

And how much longer can the selectors ignore Tasmanian Jackson Bird?

The 26-year-old had a stunning debut Sheffield Shield season last summer and is the leading wicket-taker in the four-day game for the second successive year. He has also bagged 14 wickets at the MCG in just two Shield games, making him a bolter for the Test team for Boxing Day.

But regardless of who the selectors choose for the second Test against Sri Lanka in Melbourne, there is certainly some doubt about whether we will ever see Hilfenhaus in a baggy green again.

Just 12 months removed from taking 27 magnificent wickets against India at 12.07, Hilfenhaus has lost his mojo, lacked penetration and required remedial work due to the perils of Twenty20 bowling.

The opportunity that his injury presents the likes of Johnson, Cutting or Bird could very well spell the end of his Test career.

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  1. the green.05:56pm Thursday 20th December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    Just when i though Sam Goodwins articles couldn't get any better!

  2. MySay07:23pm Thursday 20th December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    I certainly hope we have seen the end of him.

  3. Hidden Fortress07:35pm Thursday 20th December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    There is too much talent in the Aussie fast bowling camp. Test hardenned Bollinger and Johnson are ready to go at the drop of a hat, and young guns Cummins and Pattinson ready to go when their bodies harden up a bit. Siddle is the last man standing, the current spearhead of the attack. Hilfenhaus has done a great job for us, hes probably not the greatest ever bowler but with Johnson and Bollinger ready to go ..who cares if Hilf is out of the team, lets just win some games.

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  4. Michael06:51pm Tuesday 01st January 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Reporters like test bowlers need experience to improve their skills in chosen field. I would love to hear the stats of potential up and comer reporters who could be up for the job of 7yahoo cricket reporter for next season. Frankly I think it may make more interesting reading than this............speculation. Stats like 0 for backpage, page 103, 7 articles for 1 critisism. 3 like 2 dislikes.