Dawid Malan’s blast helps England to T20 series victory over Australia
This has been quite the week for Dawid Malan. On Sunday, he slid down England’s batting order like a greased-up pre-teen on a waterslide, on Tuesday he lost his central contract and on Wednesday in Canberra he arrived with an axe to grind and a bat to wield.
He duly rescued his side from an awkward situation at 54 for four, assisted by Moeen Ali, to haul them to a defendable total, a second successive eight-run victory over Australia and a second away series win in a row.
Having ended with 82, scored off 49 balls, Malan said he had nothing to prove – “I feel like I’ve proved my point a hell of a lot before” – but the English and Wales Cricket Board’s decision not to award him a full central contract has clearly stung.
“There’s a slightly strange system with the contracts,” he said. “It seems heavily [weighted] towards red-ball cricket, but it is what it is, there’s decisions I don’t make. It ultimately puts you in tough situations if you’re not contracted and you’re losing finances playing in tournaments in the winter.
“Hopefully, white-ball cricket can be recognised as Test-match cricket is, because you have players here who are the leading wicket-takers in the history of the game [Chris Jordan, England’s highest T20 wicket-taker] who don’t have a contract. Keysy [Rob Key, England’s managing director of men’s cricket] and I have had that chat already. There’s nothing you can do about it.
“As players we’d like to be rewarded for our performances for England – you’d guess that’s what contracts are for. If you’re ranked top five in the world for three years you’d hope you get recognised with a white-ball contract, but that’s just how it works. It’s not my decision to make. It’s still an honour to play for England.”
In the first game in Perth, Malan faced two balls. HereOn Wednesday, he came in as scheduled at three and hit seven fours and four sixes – Australia managed five – in an innings of assurance and authority.
Beyond him only Moeen, with 44 off 27 balls, and Jos Buttler with a stuttering 17 off 13, reached double figures as an Australia side restored to full strength by the return of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood and Glenn Maxwell – all back after not travelling to Perth – bowled with authority and discipline.
Ben Stokes again failed with the bat, but his contribution was felt in other areas – he opened the bowling for the first time in his T20 career and produced the moment of the match in the field. Mitch Marsh drove wide of long-off and the ball was already over the rope when the 31-year-old, sprinting to his right, dived, plucked it from the sky and threw it back under his body in one motion.
In doing so he turned a six into a two, earned a standing ovation from the fans located nearby and induced slack-jawed awe in those watching on television or excitedly sharing a clip of the incident on social media.
Having restricted England to 178 for seven, a moderate score for all Malan and Moeen’s efforts, Australia knew there was no need to be frenetic as they started their reply. But as it turned out they were not so much calm as comatose: after three overs they had 12 runs, lost both openers in the following two and soon enough the advantage they had in the field had gone as well. They ended the powerplay, as England had done, on 41 for two.
Exemplified by Stokes’s inspirational efforts it was England’s fielding that made the difference. Marsh and Marcus Stoinis accelerated the innings but both fell too soon – Marsh for 45 off 29, Stoinis for 22 off 13, both mistiming pulls and falling victim to fine, low catches.
Even then Tim David might have carried Australia to victory, but in the 18th over, and with the match still in the balance, he wandered across his wicket and Sam Curran, who as on Sunday, made a crucial contribution to victory as tension rose in the final overs, sent the ball arrowing into his leg stump.