SK Player of the day: John Hastings for his six-for against Sri Lanka
John Wayne Hastings, or ‘The Duke’, as he is affectionately called, turned out to be an unlikely hero for Australia against Sri Lanka in the fourth ODI at Dambulla, and is our SK player of the day. His six-wicket haul, coupled with Aaron Finch’s 18-ball 50, helped the visitors lead the series 3-1, with one match still to go.
The last few months haven’t really gone the 30-year old’s way, with injuries midway through the IPL season, and the subsequent ruling out of the West Indies ODI tri-series, dealing major blows to his international career, which has failed to achieve stability due to injuries and tight competition. From 2010-2011, he won 11 ODI caps for Australia, but could only contribute eight wickets. In the next 11, however, Hastings has played his part with remarkable efficiency, and has taken 24 wickets.
On Wednesday, Hastings returned with his best ODI bowling figures, giving a much-needed boost to his confidence. He got a vital breakthrough early on, accounting for Kusal Mendis in the sixth over, and then cleaning up the tail, including the wicket of the injury-battled Angelo Mathews in the last over of the innings. His spell was the eighth best figures by an Australian bowler in ODIs. Only Mitchell Johnson has better figures against Sri Lanka in ODIs for Australia, with a spell of 6-31 at Pallekele in 2011.
Hastings is proving to be the ideal partner to Mitchell Starc’s searing left-arm pace, and the pair has together managed to put sustained pressure on the top order regularly. Hastings used the slower balls to good effect, deceiving the lower order with his cross-seamed deliveries. Both Thisara and Dilruwan Perera were early in their shots, and fell prey to Hastings’ clever bowling, as well as their poor choice of strokeplay.
The Sri Lankan team entered the fourth one-dayer with a number of changes with the hope that something will trigger a change of fortune for them in the shorter format. Yet, their batting buckled in the face of the Australian pace attack, and Aaron Finch subsequently marauded the Sri Lankan bowling in the opening overs with an 18-ball 50, helping finish the chase off with 114 balls to spare.
The match-winning figures might just act as a catalyst and resurrect Hastings’ ODI career. For, with age catching up quickly, and with pace not being his forte, Hastings doesn’t have much time to broaden his skills, but needs to sharpen them and stay relevant in a format that is not exactly kind to 30-plus pacers.