Chris Stocks talks to a man who found his scor­ing touch af­ter he put dreams of a win­ter tour to the back of his mind

The Cricket Paper - - NEWS - In­vestec is the ti­tle spon­sor of Test match cricket in Eng­land. For Out of the Or­di­nary think­ing visit in­

The men­tal side of the game is of­ten the hard­est thing for an in­ter­na­tional crick­eter to mas­ter and Dawid Malan ad­mits thoughts of this win­ter’s Ashes left his mind scram­bled when he be­gan his Test ca­reer ear­lier this sum­mer.

Malan, who cel­e­brated his 30th birth­day on Mon­day, put Aus­tralia to the back of his mind af­ter he scored the grand to­tal of 35 runs in his first four Test in­nings against South Africa.

Re­sults since, with the Mid­dle­sex bats­man scor­ing two half-cen­turies in the first two matches of this se­ries against West Indies, have been en­cour­ag­ing, even if his sec­ond-in­nings 61 at Head­in­g­ley, which spanned al­most five hours, was hard to watch.

The Ashes are now a live pos­si­bil­ity again for Malan, even if the man him­self is still try­ing to avoid think­ing about them.

“To be fair, I have been try­ing to get it out of mind es­pe­cially af­ter the first two games against South Africa,” he says.

“At the time, I was look­ing a bit far ahead and I’ve tried to bring it back to game by game, find­ing a way to score runs, be it stick­ing in – it’s about runs at the end of the day.”

Malan be­lieved that his Test ca­reer would be short-lived be­cause of the pres­ence of Gary Bal­lance, who lost his place at No.3 thanks to the frac­tured fin­ger he sus­tained in the sec­ond In­vestec Test against South Africa but was touted for a re­turn at Malan’s cur­rent po­si­tion of five.

“I al­ways thought Gary was go­ing to come back,” says Malan. “I re­placed him be­cause he was in­jured. I thought I’d have one or two Tests, then he’d come back in.

“For­tu­nately, the se­lec­tors gave me a bit of a run af­ter the South Africa se­ries, and I man­aged to get 60 in the first Test against West Indies at Edg­bas­ton. I was dis­ap­pointed not to get a hun­dred there, be­cause it was a good wicket, but at least I found a way to get to 60.”

Malan was born in Roe­hamp­ton, south-west Lon­don, but raised near Cape Town and it was watch­ing the 2005 Ashes on TV as a teenager in South Africa that fu­elled his am­bi­tion to play for the land of his birth.

“My fa­ther has al­ways watched cricket,” he said. “Dur­ing the 2005 Ashes, I was still at school in South Africa and I al­ways came home and caught the last ses­sion.

“The hype that had was prob­a­bly my first real ex­pe­ri­ence of the Ashes. To see how 2005 changed English cricket was fan­tas­tic.”

The hard­est thing Malan has found about the step up from the county game to Test cricket is the pres­sure and re­lent­less dis­sect­ing of a new player’s tech­nique. Both Malan and Tom West­ley have been on the re­ceiv­ing end of that sharp fo­cus since both made their de­buts against South Africa at The Oval in July.

And Malan says: “There’s more sus­tained pres­sure. It’s not too dif­fer­ent but there’s more dis­ci­pline re­quired. Bowlers don’t bowl as many bad balls, but if you get to 20 it be­comes eas­ier and you try and ex­ert your­self.

“If you fail in the County Cham­pi­onship you go home and you don’t have to read or see any­thing, you know you are backed and sup­ported, guys have seen you for years and know what you can do.

“But in Test cricket peo­ple haven’t seen you as much, the com­men­ta­tors, and they an­a­lyse your hands, feet, head. I found that hard the first two games but I’ve tried to make a fresh start, do what I do at county cricket and try and adapt as I go along.

“I speak to oth­ers, Joe Root and Alas­tair Cook, how they have adapted to make them so suc­cess­ful, it’s try­ing to pick lit­tle bits of that and try­ing to add where I feel I need to.

“You do see the scru­tiny on TV. We don’t have the vol­ume up, but you know they’re try­ing to com­pare you with what Cook’s do­ing, or an­other left­hander.

“But you’ve also got Cric­stat where you can sit down and do a slo-mo and see if your move­ments are okay, com­pared with the in­nings be­fore or with Mid­dle­sex.

“At the end of the day you ei­ther get a good ball or play a bad shot – it’s pretty sim­ple.”

Malan cer­tainly feels his T20 de­but against South Africa at Cardiff in June, when he scored a fine 78 in his first in­ter­na­tional in­nings, is more rep­re­sen­ta­tive of his abil­ity than the two stodgy half-cen­turies in the Tests at Edg­bas­ton and Lord’s.

“I haven’t felt l’ve played as well as I can play,” he said.

“I’ve found a way to get two scores, which for me is a plus point: if I’m not feel­ing good, I can still find a way to score runs. That has made me feel a lot more com­fort­able.”

PIC­TURE: Getty Images

Tough­ing it out: Dawid Malan has had to fight for his runs this sum­mer af­ter a shaky start

Un­der scru­tiny, too: Tom West­ley’s tech­nique has been ex­am­ined

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