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T20 World Cup 2022

Dawid Malan, perennial scapegoat of England fans, does not deserve the flak he gets

Dawid Malan: England's Perennial Scapegoat
by Katya Witney 4 minute read

Dawid Malan’s international career has been fraught with criticism. Judged too aggressive to play Test cricket in England yet too slow to play T20Is, he has turned into England’s perennial scapegoat.

His innings against Ireland was a case in point. With rain rapidly closing in, it cannot be argued that Malan’s 35, off 37 balls, was a good innings. At no point was he able to ensure that England were ahead of the DLS par score. His approach was made to look all the more glaring by Moeen Ali pumping Gareth Delaney for 12 off what turned out to be the final three balls of the match before the rain fell. Given the deteriorating weather, Malan’s game awareness and sluggishness were disappointing.

It encapsulates the misgivings many have voiced over the last couple of years about Malan’s utility as a T20I batter. He is too slow at the start of the innings; he does not make up for that the death; he gets in, and then he gets out: ever since he became a regular fixture in the England side, these are the criticisms that have been levied against him.


Amidst all the criticism, the early days of Malan’s T20I career is worth looking back at. Having done remarkably well in the handful of games he had played previously, with four 50-plus scores in five matches, he struck what was then the fastest T20I hundred for England in their highest ever T20I score, in Napier. He nearly bettered that a year later: his 99* off 47 at Newlands was one half of a record-breaking partnership with Jos Buttler, whom in that innings Malan out-hit and out-scored.

Shortly before that, Malan had reached No.1 in the T20I batting rankings. He occupied that spot for over a year, accompanied by grumblings of how no one had played because of the global pandemic, and once normal service resumed, he would be put back in his rightful place in the second or third tier of international T20 cricketers.

Malan finished 2020 with an average of just below 50 and a strike rate of 142, undoubtedly the high point in his limited-overs career. In 2021 his strike rate dropped to 116, and innings like Napier and Newlands became less frequent. Despite being England’s third-highest run-scorer before they were knocked out in the semi-final in the 2021 T20 World Cup, his strike rate was significantly lower than the likes of Buttler and Jason Roy up top, and Moeen and Liam Livingstone below.

Yet, it is worth considering the substantially different roles Malan and those around him are selected to fulfil before getting the pitchforks out and aiming them at the latest convenient scapegoat for an England disaster at a World Cup. Whatever rights and wrongs there are with having a specific anchor at three or four in T20, that is the role Malan fills for England. He is there to bat for as many overs as required, going at as high above a run a ball as he can, while the likes of Livingstone, Moeen and Buttler preen at the length and audacity of their shots from the other end. Where it fell apart against Ireland, was the failure, for the most part, of England to keep an eye on the DLS charts rather than simply Malan’s admittedly poor innings.

In Perth against Australia just a couple of weeks before the start of the World Cup, England were flying batting first. By the time Buttler was out in the 12th over, they already had 132 runs on the board. Ben Stokes, Harry Brook, Moeen, and finally, Sam Curran, emerged before England turned to Malan. No anchor required, no Malan – the kind of flexibility we all cry out for in such scenarios.

This is not to say Malan is incapable of the kind of brutal destruction expected of Stokes, Buttler and co. He finished The Hundred as the joint-highest six-hitter and leading run-scorer, and his international strike rate is climbing this year once more, sitting at above 130.

The criticism that follows Malan around is the same that follows Steve Smith, Shan Masood and Kane Williamson. All of them have lower strike rates than Malan. It is the reason England have dropped Joe Root, who again has a lower strike rate than Malan, from their T20I squad. We can split hairs about the merits of having a low(er)-striking batter in a T20 order, but he is not primarily why England lost against Ireland. Nor is he the source of all of England’s batting problems.

If a batting order were a Jenga tower, Malan would make up the bottom layer. Those above him can slot in and out, risking collapse, but making the tower taller as they go. You take out a block from the bottom layer, and suddenly everyone else’s job is a whole lot harder.

Bet365 will be Live Streaming all of the T20 World Cup matches direct to your iPhone, iPad or Android device, as well as desktop. This means that every T20 World Cup

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