November 30th, 2012; a day that will live in infamy.
Australia were, to general astonishment and disbelief, playing well. They had not only competed with South Africa across the first two Tests of the series but had pretty much outplayed them. Ed Cowan and David Warner had both made centuries against a competent attack and the rest of the cricket world was eyeing the gin bottle they’d just emptied with increased suspicion. Fortunately, it wasn’t to last: normal service, belatedly, rode over the horizon and the Aussie wheels went hurtling over the edge of a cliff.
Faf du Plessis’ incredible rearguard action had two major effects on the series; firstly, it saved the Adelaide Test and kept the score at 0-0 going into the final game, and secondly it absolutely crippled the entire Australian attack as they all ran themselves into the ground. James Pattinson jumped the gun and managed to get injured in the first innings, which meant that Michael Clarke had to morph into a first change bowler and Peter Siddle had to get through about a trillion overs in the second. Despite sending for all the slush puppies in the world, he couldn’t recover in time for the next Test. On top of Pattinson and Siddle’s absence, the Australian selectors realised, with a jolt, that Ben Hilfenhaus is actually a bit rubbish and he was banished from the side.
So with that the stage was set; Australia needed a new pace attack for the final, deciding Test. They sent for Mitchell Johnson, the Perth specialist, they sent for Mitchell Starc, who’s quite similar to Johnson so obviously a Perth specialist too, and they sent for…
Now the only obvious justification for his selection was that he basically seems like quite an Aussie bloke. He is not, and was not ever, a Test standard bowler in any shape or form. He absolutely, certainly, definitely is not and was not ever a Test standard opening bowler, yet it was he who shared the new ball with Starc on that fateful day. In years to come there may be many theories hypothesised as to why he played this game, particularly when the one thing Australia are producing in reasonable abundance is fast bowlers. Perhaps it was all part of an elaborate plan to get Mickey Arthur sacked seven months later. We may never know. What we do know is that when an Australian selection makes even less sense than usual, something has gone seriously awry.
But, regardless, play he did, and it all started surprisingly adequately. He bowled quite well initially and helped Australia recover from 100/7 to the dizzying heights of 163 all out with the bat. Alas, it was to prove the high water mark. In the second innings Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers decided to smash everyone to all parts and Hastings’ respectable first innings figures of 1/51 were thoroughly overshadowed by a much less respectable 0/102 as carnage reigned all around. Everyone got clobbered, but at least the Mitchell twins managed to get a few people out in between fetching balls from the car park.
Leading up to his Test debut he had played a few ODIs – masochists may remember him from the post 2010/11 Ashes one day series – and T20s but since then has vanished from Australian thinking. Not even homework-gate or the fact about 7 billion players ended up in one squad or another visiting England this summer opened up a path for his return. Even the traditional Aussie fast bowler injury epidemic may not be enough to revive his international career now.
At least that gives us the chance to reflect on a man whose star burned so bright but all too fleetingly. His appearance can be a rallying point for fans the world over; whatever happens to cricket in the future, we’ll always have that time John Hastings opened the bowling in a Test match. Thank you, Australia, and thank you John.