Hastings wins battle, grabs chance
When John Hastings stepped out on to the WACA two months ago to the day, it was nearly as big a moment as his trip to Perth this week. Hastings was lining up for Victoria in his first match at first-class level for nearly two years, having missed all of last summer due to a serious shoulder injury suffered while diving for a catch at a training session. Shoulder reconstructions and fast bowlers don't make for a happy mix, so simply returning to state level was an achievement.
But five Shield matches and an Australia A appearance later, Hastings was going so well in his comeback season that he found himself catapulted into Australia's side for the Perth Test. A tap on the shoulder from the selectors a quarter of an hour before Australia started their warm-up was all the warning Hastings was given that he would become Australia's 430th Test cricketer.
"It was a pretty special moment," Hastings said. "I didn't have too much time to think about. It was probably a good thing actually. I found out about 15 to 20 minutes before the warm-up. Last night I had a pretty good sleep and I wasn't thinking about it too much. I knew my role already if I was to play. Then it's just about getting out there, warming up and all of a sudden you're taking the new ball for Australia. It definitely is a boyhood dream.
"It's been a pretty big start to the year, playing all the Sheffield Shield and all the one-dayers and it was nice to get the performances on the board. You sort of have it in the back of your mind that you'd love to be playing Test cricket, or for Australia in any format, but for me it was all about getting my body right, getting back into it, feeling what cricket was like again and hopefully putting some good performances on the board. It's been a bit of a whirlwind the last six months."
Hastings's mother and his fiancée were in the crowd to watch him being presented with his baggy green by Adam Gilchrist, and before he knew it he was being asked to take the new ball for Australia. It's a job he only occasionally performs for Victoria, particularly when they need an into-the-wind workhorse, and that was the case at the WACA, where the breeze was working for the left-armers, Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson, at the other end.
After a nervous start, Hastings found his rhythm and drew a loose shot from Hashim Amla, who flicked the ball off his pads to midwicket only to be reprieved by Ed Cowan. But, in his next over, Hastings was rewarded with his first Test victim when AB de Villiers nibbled outside off stump and the edge was snapped up by Michael Clarke at first slip, leaving South Africa at 5 for 67.
"It was a good feeling to get one early," Hastings said. "I was pretty nervous to start with actually. I wasn't into a rhythm at all for the first eight or ten overs and then I came out after the break and there was a little bit of swing there, which was good. I had a good bowl during the lunch break and ironed a few things out, put it all behind me, the nerves and then to get that wicket of AB was really nice."
It was the only wicket for Hastings, who finished his first day of Test cricket with 1 for 51 from 20 overs. But he can be content that he played an important role on a day on which Australia knocked South Africa, the world's No.1-ranked Test side, over for 225. Whatever the future holds for Hastings, working his way back from such a serious injury to earn a Test call-up is a fine achievement in itself.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here