Hastings raises three-allrounder possibility
During the World Cup last year, Australia's selectors found it hard to fit James Faulkner and Mitchell Marsh into the same line-up, viewing the two allrounders as bringing similar qualities to the XI. Now they face the prospect of squeezing three pace-bowling allrounders into the ODI outfit, with John Hastings having impressed in the win over India in Brisbane, where he replaced the resting Marsh.
Of course, during the World Cup there was also a need to fit Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson and Josh Hazlewood in; Johnson is now retired, Starc is recovering from an ankle injury, and Hazlewood is being rested for the remainder of the summer. It is much less of a stretch to drop one of Kane Richardson, Joel Paris or Scott Boland to accommodate the three allrounders.
That is the scenario for the upcoming third ODI on Sunday in Melbourne, where Marsh rejoins the squad and presumably will walk straight back into the XI alongside Faulkner. At the Gabba, Hastings put up a strong case for his retention by taking 1 for 46 from eight overs on a pitch offering very little, and captain Steven Smith was rewarded for trusting Hastings with the 50th over, which cost only four runs.
"I thought the way that he bowled was excellent," Aaron Finch said after the win. "He bowled at some difficult times. Rohit [Sharma] and Virat [Kohli] were batting beautifully through that period when John got the ball for the first time and ... the way that he's got his cutters going - legcutters, offcutters, seam-up, cross-seam - I think that he's a really attractive package for the one-day game."
Should Hastings keep his place at the MCG it will be quite a vote of confidence given he was added only after the Perth win and would be taking the place of one of the original squad members. But Australia's selectors have shown their willingness in recent times to stack the team with allrounders, and the pace depth is being tested in any case.
"There's a lot of injuries in Australian cricket, most of our express bowlers are out," Hastings said after arriving in Melbourne on Saturday. "James Faulkner has got a really unique skill-set, Mitch Marsh has got another unique skill-set, and I offer something different as well. I think there's definitely scope for it … I think it can work."
During the Gabba ODI Hastings even broke the 140kph barrier, unusually quick by his standards, though in white-ball cricket it is his variations that make him an attractive bowling prospect. Hastings said Australia's attack deserved credit for restricting India to 75 runs for the loss of six wickets in their last 10 overs on a pitch that offered very little for the bowlers.
"It was probably on the slower side of a Gabba wicket that I've seen for quite some time," he said. "But there just wasn't any sideways movement or receptiveness to gripping slower balls or cross-seam deliveries. There just wasn't much there. For us to pull it back like we did, I think the bowling group really needs to have a pat on the back for that, because they were two down going into the last ten overs, you can really get anything."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale