Malan: Sum­mer was tough but I’m ready for this se­ries

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Dawid Malan is hon­est enough to ad­mit that he was hor­ri­bly out of form when handed his Test chance for Eng­land last sum­mer. But the Mid­dle­sex bats­man be­lieves the work he has put in since will help him en­joy a suc­cess­ful Ashes se­ries in Aus­tralia.

At 30, Malan is a late­comer to in­ter­na­tional cricket and although he pro­duced a won­der­ful first im­pres­sion when scor­ing 78 in his first Eng­land match – the T20 against South Africa at Cardiff in June – he strug­gled to fol­low that up when given his Test chance at No.5 later in the sum­mer

Ex­posed by South Africa’s at­tack after mak­ing his de­but at The Oval, Malan scored just 35 runs in his first two Tests.

Easy runs were on of­fer against West Indies but Malan bat­tled his own poor form to grind out two un­bear­ably ugly half-cen­turies.

By sum­mer’s end, Malan av­er­aged 23.62 from five Tests. Although that was less than fel­low Oval debu­tant Tom West­ley’s over­all av­er­age of 24.12 from the same num­ber of matches, Malan made the cut for the Ashes tour while the Es­sex bats­man did not.

Now he hopes to cash in on this op­por­tu­nity, with the tech­ni­cal ad­just­ments he has made to his tech­nique since the sum­mer ev­i­dent in his first two in­nings on tour, both of which were half-cen­turies.

Andy Flower, head of the Eng­land Lions, was in­te­gral in help­ing him make those ad­just­ments, with a more open stance al­low­ing him to ac­cess his more nat­u­ral scor­ing ar­eas.

The runs he scored against a West­ern Aus­tralia XI in Perth and a Cricket Aus­tralia XI in Ade­laide were ev­i­dence the re-set­ting of his tech­nique will per­haps fi­nally al­low him to re­alise his po­ten­tial.

“When I was picked last sum­mer it co­in­cided with a loss of form – it wasn’t ideal,” said Malan. “It just came at the wrong time in terms of where I was hit­ting the ball.

“Just be­fore I got picked I lost a lot of rhythm in my bat­ting and I kept try­ing harder and harder to find it. Lit­tle bad habits crept in and one of those was get­ting re­ally, re­ally side on. There were a cou­ple of times against the West Indies where I got to 60 where I felt if I was play­ing well I prob­a­bly could have pushed on.

“You just get into bad habits as you get along and you don’t re­ally have that time in county cricket to go away for two weeks and work on your game. So, this last, sort of, month off it was nice to just go back and hit a few balls and do a bit of work with Andy Flower.

“You have set­backs and you have to find a way to suc­ceed and con­trib­ute to the team whether you’re play­ing well or not. I man­aged to find a way in the sum­mer and, hope­fully, touch wood, the work I’ve done over the last three or four weeks can help me get back to bat­ting flu­ently.”

Those tech­ni­cal flaws mean we have yet to see the best of Malan for Eng­land. “Apart from the T20,” he says. “In the Test matches I haven’t played as well as I can.

“But, hope­fully, it all clicks, there’s a bit more free­dom, if I’m picked for that first Test. The lit­tle habits I got into re­stricted me in some ar­eas where I’m quite strong. It goes like that as a bats­man.You don’t al­ways feel good at the crease.

“There are scor­ing ar­eas that feel quite nat­u­ral to me and I lost those dur­ing the sum­mer, whether that was off the hip or a drive, a cut, or what­ever it was at the time.

“The shots that come nat­u­rally weren’t do­ing so at the time, which made it quite a bat­tle.”

Malan is cer­tain to bat at five for Eng­land come the first Ashes Test at the Gabba in 13 days’ time, his scores of 56 and 63 in those first two in­nings en­sur­ing he will see off com­pe­ti­tion from Gary Bal­lance, dropped for the sec­ond tour match in Ade­laide.

The fact Malan has been drafted into the slip cor­don – sta­tioned at third – for the first two matches in Aus­tralia is an­other sign he is in.

“I’ve been roped into that,” he joked. “It’s a dif­fer­ent chal­lenge and I think the more strings you can add to your bow and the more you can of­fer to the team makes you more valu­able.”

Malan was born in Roe­hamp­ton, south west Lon­don, but moved to Cape Town aged seven when his South African fa­ther, a den­tist, de­cided to move the fam­ily back to his home­land.

Those South African links mean Malan has spent al­most ev­ery win­ter there and, as a re­sult, had never been to, let alone played cricket, in Aus­tralia be­fore this tour.

“It’s my first time in Aus­tralia, yes,” he says. “It is un­usual. But I grew up in South Africa and when you weigh up the op­tions over a win­ter, go­ing to South Africa with gyms, fa­cil­i­ties and coaches that you work with is good.

“To come out here and al­most go into the un­known, which I was do­ing in any case go­ing to Eng­land, you’re out of your com­fort zone. So, I felt it was right to go back and work with peo­ple I trusted and knew.”

That Malan now prop­erly trusts and knows his own tech­nique means this first trip Down Un­der could well be a suc­cess­ful one.

Malan is cer­tain to bat at five for Eng­land, scores of 56 and 63 en­sur­ing he will see off com­pe­ti­tion from Bal­lance

Tech­ni­cal ad­vice: Andy Flower

Chris Stocks dis­cov­ers that Eng­land’s late de­vel­oper has been work­ing hard to re­tain his place for the first Test

PIC­TURES: Getty Im­ages

Back to his flu­ent best: Dawid Malan hits out against a Cricket Aus­tralia XI as Tim Paine looks on

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