ENG vs IND: Is Dawid Malan the answer to England’s woeful top-order?

With England’s continued struggles with the bat in Test cricket, the selectors decided to drop Dominic Sibley and Zak Crawley for the third Test against India at Leeds. Dawid Malan has been brought back into the Test team and is likely to be slotted at number three, a position where he has batted for Yorkshire in first-class cricket in recent times.

Now, ahead of the important match at Leeds in Headingley, it seems like the right call to bring in Malan, but is it the perfect answer to England’s issues with the top order? For one, Malan has a few things going on for himself. He is an experienced player. He is turning 34 next month and has a lot of experience.

Malan’s journey from Test cricket to limited-overs game

Malan is someone who has had a second coming of sorts. For a long time, he wasn’t someone who was considered to play for England. It was only in 2017 when the doors started opening for Malan with England looking for some seasoned batsman from county cricket to come in and fill the middle-order role. Later that year, he travelled to Australia and returned with some good scores in the Ashes, including a fantastic century at Perth, which till date remains his only Test ton.

However, after just a year into his Test career, lack of form saw him get dropped from the English side. Interestingly enough, he was dropped from the team after the first Test against India in Edgbaston on their 2018 tour. Till then, Malan had scored 724 runs at an average of 27.84 in 15 Test matches, with one century and six fifties. So, there wasn’t too much to write home about. It should also be noted that Malan batted at no. 5 then, which is considered a slightly easier place to bat than no. 3. However, Malan’s falling red-ball career didn’t affect his white-ball game.

He performed extremely well for England in T20I cricket to end up as the no. 1 T20I batsman in the ICC rankings and continues to hold that position. He is a much better batsman than he was four years ago and has a temperament that stands out among others in county cricket. Does he have the numbers? Well, Test cricket hasn’t been kind to him too much, but his first-class numbers are good.

Overall, the southpaw has played 192 first-class matches and has close to 12,000 runs with an average of 38.43. In 2020, he had the best average among all the leading run-scorers in the Bob Willis Trophy (a shorter first-class tournament played in place of the County Championship due to COVID-19). He had scored 332 runs in five innings, which included a 219. This year, he has played one first-class match and scored 199 against Sussex.

Making a comeback

As far as technique is concerned, Malan has his own struggles like several others in international cricket. But, with experience, batsmen learn to negate their weaknesses and manage to score runs. His inclusion can be vital for England moving forward into the Ashes later this year. But, the very fact that England had to bring in a 34-year-old into the Test match set-up just sums up the crisis in English cricket in terms of finding a solid Test match batsman.

For now, Malan can be a fix if he manages to even get a fifty in the Headingley Test. But, there has been an issue with the English top order for a while now. Since Jonathan Trott’s retirement, England have failed to find a quality no. 3. Even though Malan brings experience to this team, the question will be for long and once the experiment with him is done, who is next in line? These are some questions that can give sleepless nights to Ashley Giles, Chris Silverwood and Joe Root.

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