Dawid Malan's move to Yorkshire has certainly made the headlines. Captain of Middlesex during the summer just gone and named Player of the Year, he is now moving on after 13 seasons, released from his contract two years early. Comments in an interview, given after the move was announced, suggest all was not well between him and the club. He had not been enjoying his cricket, he said.Cricket Tips He felt he had been kept in the dark about strategy. And so a move to Yorkshire it is. "A fresh challenge" as Malan put it.
It comes at a pivotal moment in his career. At present, he is a bit-part player for England, not in their immediate Test plans and one of a decent number of batting reserves for their limited overs teams. His position in the Test pecking order is a reflection of what he openly admits were not strong enough returns during his 15 matches to date, resulting in an average of less than 30. In white-ball cricket, England's huge strength in batting depth has conspired against him, limiting his opportunities.
At 32, he feels he has plenty of time left in the game but there's no escaping the fact that if he is to make a real mark in international cricket, he has to start doing it soon. Malan has shown glimpses of the player he is and the player promises to be in England colours. Anyone who makes a Test hundred at the WACA against Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood has something about them. But it's difficult to get away from the feeling that time is, unfortunately, running out.
That's part of the reason Malan says he left Middlesex. Yes, at times he felt he was "banging his head against a wall" at Lord's and from his comments after it is clear there had been a breakdown in his relationship with the club's management. But Malan also says he doesn't want to finish his career "plodding along", he wants a "fresh challenge". Match Prediction He feels it is the right time for a move, both to win trophies and to try and cement a position with England. After all, the clock is ticking.
He has played all three games so far in New Zealand as an opener, registering scores of 11, 39 and 55 in the third match in Nelson on Tuesday. Decent returns but not enough to upset England's T20 top order establishment. Jos Buttler and Jason Roy, rested for this trip, and Jonny Bairstow, rotated out for this game, are all certainties for next year's T20 World Cup. Then there's Tom Banton, the up and coming young thruster, and Alex Hales, who seems to have been discarded by England but shouldn't have been.
Competition is intense. Before this tour, Malan's last T20I was in February 2018. In that game, he made 53 against New Zealand in Hamilton, following on from another half-century in the game before in Wellington, but then missed England's next nine T20Is. Left out of series against Australia and India last summer, for the West Indies series earlier this year and the home game against Pakistan this season as England's focus was on giving their 50-over players game time ahead of the World Cup.
An 18 month gap then through no fault of his own. Unfair or understandable given the surfeit of other top order candidates? Probably a bit of both.
The suggestion that Malan has been treated unfairly by England is trotted out regularly by his supporters. Ed Smith's comments about the left-hander being more suited to playing Test cricket overseas when he was dropped last year was unfortunate at best and down right nasty at worst. Given his record, Malan's non-selection in T20I cricket over the past 18 months has been an anomaly too as has the fact he has only played one ODI, against Ireland this year, despite it probably being the format he is best in.
Whether batting at the top of the order in T20 cricket is the best use of Malan's skills also remains a question for England to consider. They have only ever used him in the top three and in fairness, it has worked. His innings in Nelson was his fifth half-century in eight T20I appearances and he averages 47 with a strike rate of 146.
Malan's record may be excellent but England might consider batting him at number five, a problem position for them since 2016's World T20, given his ability to dominate against spin in the middle overs. Cricket Betting Tips As their match-losing collapse of five wickets for ten runs in 18 balls today proved, the middle order could do with more rigidity.
For now though, that's not Malan's role and on Tuesday in Nelson, he did his best to throw his hat in the ring as an opener. He hit eight boundaries and a six in his 34 delivery stay. He started slowly, reaching 15 off 14 balls, but then accelerated significantly scoring 40 runs off his next 20. While he may not have the power or overt aggression of a Roy or a Bairstow, Malan's timing and poise have always marked him out and that was in full evidence here.
And yet, as harsh as it sounds given he top scored for England, today's 55 wasn't enough. It was a good innings - a very good one even - but not the sort to put the cat amongst the pigeons