While having his third ball in Australian cricket in his post first-class career dubbed “one of the worst hat-trick balls in the history of cricket” sounds harsh on first hearing, it also suggests Ben Hilfenhaus got something pretty right with his first two offerings.
All eyes in the sold-out Blundstone Arena were on HIlfenhaus as he charged in to follow up “two pretty good seeds”, as Melbourne Stars teammate and half-century maker Glenn Maxwell described them, with a waist-high gift to Hobart Hurricanes overseas player Kumar Sangakkara.
“Yeah it was interesting wasn’t it?” said Maxwell tongue-in-cheek of Hilfenhaus’ failed hat-trick attempt.
“Fielding at slip, I was pretty excited about the prospect of hat-trick ball. It was pretty cold so I didn’t back myself to take it to be honest.
“To see a little (full toss) come out, to see it go to the fence was a little bit disappointing.
“I suppose that’s the excitement of watching the Stars. Anything could happen.
“Two wickets with his first two balls, then a fullie and a free hit.”
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Much like he did during his 27-Test career, Hilfenhaus slipped quite easily into the background amidst Maxwell’s six-hitting, catching, bowling, commentating (sometimes simultaneously), and absent Stars import Kevin Pietersen live tweeting from the United Kingdom, where this KFC Big Bash match became the first cricket game broadcast on free-to-air TV since the 2005 Ashes.
The fast bowler called time on a near decade-long first-class career that delivered three Sheffield Shield titles with Tasmania at the conclusion of last summer.
But the 33-year-old’s first two balls back in domestic cricket – a four-match stint for Canterbury in New Zealand’s T20 tournament notwithstanding – since his retirement showed his trademark new-ball swing and hounding accuracy are still weapons very much in his possession.
Thrown the ball for the second over of the match, Hilfenhaus clean bowled Hurricanes opener D’Arcy Short for one, just three days after the batsman’s stunning half-century on T20 debut.
Fellow left-hander Dom Michael suffered the same fate, playing all around a full, straight one to hand the stage to the former bricklayer in his hometown.
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And despite a Shield hat-trick at the same Hobart venue to his name – against Queensland in 2014 – and another southpaw to bowl at (although one with considerably more pedigree than his first two victims), Hilfenhaus erred to Sangakkara and watched as his over-waist no-ball was dispatched to the point boundary.
Missing his chance to join former Stars slinger Lasith Malinga and former Australia spinner Xavier Doherty as members of the BBL hat-trick club, and being said to have delivered with “one of the worst hat-trick balls in the history of cricket” by Channel 10 commentator Mark Howard.
“I’m all about dot balls in T20 cricket to be honest,” said Hilfenhaus, who finished with 3-38 after he had Paine caught by Maxwell on the boundary nine short of a century. “Wickets are obviously nice but I quite didn’t execute that one where I would have liked.
“It was nice to get a pretty good start. As a bowler you feel your way for your first couple of balls, so to get them where I was aiming was nice.
“I’ve benefited from a few games over in New Zealand as a lead-up which has been good for my preparation.
“Not having those workloads of the longer formats I think has helped me a little bit.”
The Hurricanes, after slumping to 2-6 following Hilfenhaus’ early incisions and then 3-32 when Sangakkara chipped one straight down long-off’s throat off Maxwell’s off-spin, did remarkably well to post a more-than-competitive total.
That they did was almost entirely down to Hilfenhaus’ former Tassie teammates Tim Paine (91 off 61 balls) and George Bailey (74 off 46).
And although the Stars top-order of Maxwell, Luke Wright (48 off 29 balls) and player-of-the-match Rob Quiney (75 off 43) deservedly got the accolades for reaching the target with ease, some credit should also go to Hilfenhaus, who once again did his thing with a minimum of fuss.
“I was glad I was in the green tonight, that’s for sure,” he added.