Dawid Malan?

What does one do when the cupboard is bare? This is the question that’s been bothering me since England’s pathetic capitulation at Edgbaston. Some want to look to the future; others want to recycle players from the past. One name that keeps coming up, however, is the admirable Dawid Malan. Today Rob Stephenson champions the veteran left-hander’s cause …

So that is that. A chastening defeat and a first home loss in six years, and England’s young batting line up ridiculed as one of the worst ever to play for the team. Zak Crawley, a formidable talent who made a double hundred less than a year ago, appears likely to make way for a replacement before India play a five test series against England later in the summer.

Presumably Stokes and Buttler will come in for Messrs Pope and Bracey, giving the team more experience and improved ability against pace, but that still leaves number 3. One option would be to bring in another opener, maybe Haseeb Hameed or Adam Lyth, or even move Dom Sibley down to 3 (presuming he is not also for the chop). Another name however has been named is England’s regular number 3 in the 2020 format, but who has not played a test since 2018 – namely Dawid Malan.

Malan’s test average of 27 after 15 games is nothing to write home about. He did however have a fine tour of Australia four years ago, scoring his only test hundred and playing well against their high class pace attack. With England’s technique against high class seam clearly being found wanting, this must surely play in his favour. India also have a formidable seam attack (look at Mr Bumrah and Sharma among others) and again Malan, a fine player of fast bowling, is surely in with a shout. Maybe even Joe Denly might be hoping for a call?

Malan has had a curious career. Although his technique might appear better suited to red ball cricket, he has in recent years appeared almost exclusively in the shortest format, save a couple of ODIs against India last winter. Even in 2020 where he has been rated as the worlds best for a period of time, his position always appears insecure. However, he is a tough and self-confident cricketer and would add character and experience to a callow England batting line up, and can certainly play seam bowling.

To be blunt, England need a bulwark to withstand further battering from some of the world’s best fast bowlers in the coming months – a situation a little reminiscent of David Steele all those years ago (and before my time). Malan’s time, fresh off a 199 at county level, has surely come again. Lets hope Chris Silverwood has been watching.

Rob Stephenson


  • Malan is now his mid-thirties, and his test career yielded precisely one major innings, at Perth in 2017. The person best fitted to be England’s test no3 is the guy who is averaging 63 this season doing that job with the rest of the top order looking more than a little flaky and while being captain as well – Tom Abell. You will note that he has captaincy experience as well, which means that if he manages to establish himself at the highest level there would be ready made replacement for Root in that role (to which the Yorkshireman IMO is not especially suited).

  • That’s not Malan in the photo!

    You want to pick him but you don’t know what he looks like! That might be Silverwood’s problem as well……….

    • It’s not even a left hander! I changed the photo just after publishing and immediately changed the text. I need to flush the cache so people don’t see the old version.

  • I don’t believe in going back to players who have already not made the grade, but I’d be inclined in the present England mess to give Hameed another go. He got injured first time round before the press branded him the new Boycott, and he went completely to pieces. But he’s been doing well for Lancs.
    Malan? No a 27 test average doesn’t cut it, and his strength is one day. I don’t know enough about Abell so I would be looking at 3 openers, Burns, Hameed, Sibley as 1,2 & 3. But If Abell is promising I’d dump Sibley who has been well found out for the limited player he is.
    Pope stays for me, Butler will come back but I’d prefer he didn’t. The big one though is Stokes going to do any meaningful bowling? If not, is in for just his batting? At the moment yes because he can be a game changer.
    The bowling and keeping is another debate!

    • “I don’t believe in going back to players who have already not made the grade”.

      So you wouldn’t have gone back to Gooch in 1978 after he failed in 1975? Hussain, Stewart and Atherton were all also dropped and then recalled. As for the great Australian batting line-up, I think nearly all of them were dropped and recalled (the ones who weren’t like Mark Waugh and Mark Talyor ended up with the worst records. Boon, Langer and Martyn were all dropped as was even Steve Waugh).

      It depends on circumstances. If a player is young, struggles against very good bowling (especially abroad) and makes a stack of runs then what’s the problem? The issue with Malan is that he’s no spring chicken, has made two big scores against weak CC attacks and seems ear-marked for a place in the order he didn’t bat in until about three weeks ago.

      • Point taken, but many of the players of late that we keep reverting to are not in the same class as those you mention. Probably largely because the whole structure of cricket has changed since those days.

  • Unfortunately there’s a cult of the young in sport these days where it’s felt that being ignored promising talent through is the best long term plan, as can be seen with Gareth and his merry men. The problem with this is young players are notoriously inconsistent as they haven’t developed enough knowledge about their own game to have an effective B game to fall back on in the event if a loss of form. The likes of Malan and Billings, who have had some recent success at the top are not seen as the Future. Personally I think it’s almost worth going back to the likes of Bairstow and Buttler, who at least have test experience and a natural confidence that ensures the occasional barnstorming contribution. Can’t see where we’re going with the likes of Sibley, Crawley or Lawrence as red ball players, as they have too many obvious technical weaknesses.
    Would be nice to see what all the fuss with Hameed is about as a partner for Burns. My suggestion, discuss.
    Burns, Hameed, Malan, Root, Billings, Pope, Buttler, Broad, Wood, Leach, Anderson.
    I know it’s a long tail, but there’s more stickability in the batting. The continued absence of the Woakes, Stokes and Foakes triumvirate upsets the balance, but there is a nice balance of left and right handlers to make it tougher for the bowlers. Broad has so much natural batting talent and was originally seen as a possible all rounder. Surely Thorpe could get to work on his defensive frailties rather than just accept them.

    • Billings? Surprising choice. I think I’d rather have Curran. More variety. And I really don’t think we need to play Broad and Anderson together. But much on the make up depends on whether Stokes is actually going to bowl or not. In fact is he fit yet?

  • I think to a large extent people are looking in the wrong place for solutions to our dismal batting performances.

    This time last year the consensus was that we had, in pretty much the same batting order that we have now plus Stokes and Laurence, potentially one of England’s best batting sides for some time. They were relatively young and could be expected to develop. In Pope and Root we had two exceptional talents; Burns and Sibley looked to be establishing a good opening partnership and Crawley looked like a Test number 3 in the making. Since then all but Burns have regressed. They have not grown into Test cricketers.

    Looking to replace them with others – who are no better on County form – is, I suspect, going to make little difference. They too have come through the same system so what’s to suggest they will do better ? We all know the structural issues which have got us to this point, and there’s no sign that the ECB’s attitude to that is going to change.

    The only short term action that I can see making a difference is to set up a mentoring system where successful Test batsmen – not just from England – work intensively with our batsman and try and teach them how to adjust to Test cricket. Maybe Thorpe has been trying to do that. If he has, he needs help!

    • I think unfortunately however good your coach is, you can’t make an average player into a Test class batsman. You’d think that the likes of Ramprakash and Thorpe would be ideally placed for the job, but when Thorpe says that they need to play in the 100 to improve, I do worry!

      I used to coach swimming, and you know if you have a swimmer who liiks like top class material. Your average good swimmer will improve but isn’t likely to swim for their County or indeed England, same applies to most sports I would think.

      • Doug,
        I agree with you, but my point is that these are above average players with the potential to be Test batsmen, but whose performance has got worse at a time when it should be improving. Why have, in particular, Pope and Crawley regressed ? I think that focussing on their development would potentially produce a greater return than ditching them for the next in line who, as far as I can see, is unlikely to be as good, let alone better.

        • I think with Pope the India away series knocked him a bit, although he’s had a couple of hundreds for Surrey. He is an exceptional talent, whereas Crawley I’m yet to be convinced. I agree though some of these young guys need to have some serious work on their development. Tom Curran ‘s career has gone down the toilet to the extent even his one day bowling is pants. Chopping and changing the side doesn’t do much good for anyone’s confidence. But maybe it’s time to say if you want to swan around the World playing T20 fine, but you don’t play Tests as well. It doesn’t really work, well not for our players anyway.

          • I think the point you make about a settled side is valid – this rotation policy is one of the major factors behind England’s problems according to Vaughan, who is always emphasising how important it is to have a high degree of continuity.
            I think some separation between the T20 ‘mercenaries’ and the Test side is increasingly likely, but that would have some serious knock on effects.

  • Our batting was poor against New Zealand.
    In all honesty our batting has been poor for a few years, always prone to a collapse.
    Silverwood came along with IMO a refreshing approach of reverting to old school methods of batting long, openers blunting new ball, etc. Last year in 9 Tests we posted scores of 583, 3 X +400 (including a 499/9), 3 X +300 and no completed innings sub 200. Which I believe was really encouraging, especially as it combined with the emergence of Pope and Crawley – two young bats of quality.
    Then this year despite rotation, Covid, bubble fatigue, etc. on typical spin friendly sub-continent wickets we posted first innings totals of 421,344 and 578 – winning all three matches. Then the nature of the wickets changed and we got spun out, I am not really complaining but any wicket where Root can take 5-8 is perhaps not a usual surface? So we got rolled over by the No.1 ranked team in conditions to suit them and alien to us, it happens. We then drew and lost Test matches to the No.2 ranked team whilst missing players (due to IPL, injury, rotation, etc.) that balance our team – the likes of Stokes/Woakes/Ali/Buttler/Foakes/Bairstow strengthen the batting whilst allowing 5 bowling options.
    I think the point I am trying ineloquently to make is “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” – we were going in the right direction with our batting last year and have been undone by some exceptional unusual circumstances.
    A team of
    Buttler/Foakes (my choice, but I doubt he’ll play again)/Bairstow
    Wood (Archer when fit)

    Would be very competitive against India this summer.

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