HOBART, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Ben Hilfenhaus limped off the Bellerive Oval during the first test against Sri Lanka on Sunday to almost certainly leave Australia a pace bowler short for the second time in three matches.
The big Tasmanian, who took his 99th test wicket on Saturday evening, managed to bowl just two balls of the eighth over of the day before pulling up with a side strain.
The 29-year-old was taken to hospital for scans on the injury with the results expected in the next 24 hours.
"Ben's got a side injury, almost a typical fast bowlers injury," Australia's physio Alex Kountouris told reporters.
"It's not too bad at the moment... and we'll see what he looks like in the morning... but it's looking doubtful whether he'll be able to bowl in the rest of the game."
Australia have already lost young quicks Pat Cummins and James Pattinson to injury for the domestic season and the loss of the dependable Hilfenhaus would be a big blow to them with two tests left in series.
That is not to mention the huge hole it would leave in the bowling attack for the remaining two days of the first test on a Hobart track which, despite predictions, has turned out to be fairly bland.
Peter Siddle ended up bowling 63.5 overs and Hilfenhaus 53.3 after Pattinson broke down in the second test against South Africa in Adelaide last month, and both were considered too fatigued to play in the decisive third match in Perth.
"Probably lucky enough we've got Shane (Watson) which is different to Adelaide," said Siddle, who finished with 5-54 on Sunday as Sri Lanka were bowled out for 336.
"So it's just a question of going about our job and getting the business done. We were lucky enough today that after lunch, all the bowlers dug in and got the job done the way we wanted to do it."
All rounder Watson missed the first two tests in the series defeat to South Africa due to injury and was used sparingly in the third.
Kountouris, though, said he would not be restricted by the medical team as to the number of overs he bowled in Hobart.
"There's absolutely no limits to what Watto can bowl in the game," he said. "Once he plays the game, it's up to the captain how much he bowls, when he bowls."
Mitchell Johnson, who took six wickets in Perth and was 12th man for the Hobart test, looks likely to get another chance to revive his test career if, as Kountouris suspected, Hilfenhaus is not fit to play in the Boxing Day test in Melbourne.
Among the other candidates, John Hastings finished with a disappointing 1-153 on debut against the South Africans at the WACA, while Josh Hazlewood, who was also included in the squad for Perth, has been sidelined with a foot injury.
"I wish it was a simple answer as to why guys are breaking down," said Kountouris.
"It's obviously not ideal, we've got more injuries that we'd like to have at the moment. We're working really hard to come up with solutions..." (Editing by John O'Brien)