Determined Hastings fights way back from 'pretty flat spot'
Starc, Cummins, Hazlewood, Pattinson.
Youth and speed, the pace quartet of the future, together at last.
Such is the buzz surrounding the prospect of an Australian pace combination that has long promised but not yet fulfilled, that it would perhaps be easy to overlook the strong claims of John Hastings.
Just last year the burly allrounder was a regular in the Australian ODI squad and was the second-highest ODI wicket-taker overall for 2016 (29 wickets at 24.13) when, to the surprise of many observers, he was dropped ahead of a series against New Zealand. Shocked by the selectors' decision, Hastings suffered a further blow when he injured his knee during a Sheffield Shield match.
He feared his international career was finished.
"I think the early diagnosis for my injury was quite bad and I thought that could have been it, no doubt," Hastings said. "But once they got in there and had a look, it wasn't so bad. Nine-ten months [out of the game] came down to about four months, so that the Champions Trophy was well in my mind.
"Having a good 12 months and then missing out on that New Zealand series was tough to take, and then obviously I got injured and missed the rest of the summer. So I was in a pretty flat spot at times during the Big Bash, but once I had the operation and got into my rehab I got out of that and I got focused on what I needed to do to get here."
Hastings signed on for Worcestershire this season, extending the experience of English conditions he had gained playing for Durham, but when Australia selector Trevor Hohns called him last month, Hastings wasn't sure if the news was good or bad. It turned out to be both.
"I thought he might be ringing for one of two things; either to tell me I don't have a Cricket Australia contract or tell me I was in [the squad]," Hastings said. "And it was both in one. So it wasn't too bad, it was bittersweet. He's been brilliant. Very good communication over those six months, working towards this tournament to try and be ready for it.
"Over the past six months, everything I've been doing is to just be ready for this Champions Trophy. I gave myself a little tiny pat on the back on getting here, but now I really, really want to do well."
While he was disappointed that Australia's final warm-up was washed out after just 10.2 overs, Hastings believes his recent experience in the Royal London One Day Cup - where he played seven matches, taking ten wickets at 37.60 - has ensured he is as well prepared as any of his team-mates should he be called into the XI against New Zealand on Friday.
"I am 31-years-old now and like to think I have enough experience to know what is needed to get over these next couple of days at training to hit the ground running on Friday," he said. "I think that's probably one of the main reasons I am in the squad, because I have played in these conditions over the last three-and-a-half years. Every chance I get, I love playing for Australia and it will be no different in these three round games and hopefully the semis and the final."
The time spent in county cricket has also given Hastings a close-up view of the hosts, particularly former Durham team-mate, Ben Stokes, a player he rates as having few weak spots and who, he admitted, left him "in awe" even before he was selected in the England squad. And, despite England's thrashing by South Africa in their final ODI before the start of the Champions Trophy, Hastings believes they are leading the pack heading into the tournament.
"I think English cricket domestically in white ball is as good as any domestically around the world that I've played in. And I think they've got some great players and obviously they go quite hard. I saw a stat the other day that their last 10 innings batting first they've got over 330 [sic], so they're an exciting outfit and I think they're starting to find a combination that works well with the ball. So I think they've got to be the hot favourites and the ones that we've got to knock off."
Melinda Farrell is a presenter with ESPNcricinfo