As England and South Africa moved to Cardiff for the final T20, the equation was simple; a win guaranteed a series victory. England’s Dawid Malan became the fourth debutant in the series for three lions and as it turned out he was the most impressive of the lot. Malan was nonchalant; he bludgeoned the ball without any fuss and above all played the innings that ensured that his side posted a total was that good enough to win the series 2-1.
Born in Roehampton and brought up in South Africa, Malan made his first-class debut for Boland in 2005-6. But it his swashbuckling 51 balls 103 against Lancashire while playing for Middlesex earned him a place with the England Performance Squad in 2008. An exciting young prospect, the left-hander lost his way in the middle as his form dipped. Come the year 2014, he rediscovered his abilities and started scoring big runs. Malan who had always been a natural white ball cricketer continued his good performance in the domestic limited overs. Last year in November, playing for the England Lions, he made a record-breaking 185 of 126 balls against Sri Lanka A and that perhaps was the sign that he was now ready for the senior team.
On Sunday as Jason Roy departed early, again, Dawid Malan walked in to bat at number three. On a green wicket, Morne Morkel was causing a bit of discomfort. Malan’s first ball was just outside the off-stump which he left alone. The next delivery was a half-hearted short ball to which Malan rocked back and pulled for a six in front of the square. His first four boundaries were all of the back-foot. The South African bowlers did pitch the ball right up to him as well but just the fact that pitch offered a bit of lateral movement, Malan only attacked the balls that were short. Malan quickly had moved to 27 off just 15 balls.
It was around this time that Alex Hales caused a self-inflicted injury when the ball found his thickish inside edge stung the side of his knee. Hales slowed down significantly for the next three overs. With Imran Tahir in operation and the innings heading towards the halfway mark, it was imperative that Malan continued to be aggressive. After scoring a couple of boundaries of Imran Tahir’s first over he reached his maiden fifty off just 32 balls with a cute little scoop for four in Tahir’s second over.
Dawid Malan’s batting technique looked simple. His trigger movement was back and across. But what brought the X-Factor was his strong base that allowed him to generate a lot of power on to the shots. The above was best demonstrated when Morkel pitched one right up to him and he drilled it down the ground for four. The key to shot was how still he was and strong the base was.
Throughout his innings, Malan showed tremendous game awareness, something which only comes with experience. But here was against South Africa in his debut batting with a ridiculous amount of composure. The strokeplay was never rash, it was fluid and well-crafted. His second six was just an extension of a lofted straight drive. The straight boundaries are relatively shorter at Cardiff and Malan kept hitting straight. Just a couple of balls before getting out Malan had picked Tahir’s googly and thrashed him inside-out over covers.
The only lofted shot he mistimed was the one he was held out on to at long-on that ended a fine exhibition of strokeplay by the debutant. Dawid Malan had scored 78 off 44 balls and richly deserved a hundred. A full house at Cardiff stood up and applauded to what was one of the most fluent T20 debuts all time and could possibly the beginning of yet another modern day’s clean striker in cricket.
Written by Babasish Nanda