Could Dawid Malan make a Test comeback? Tim Wigmore at The Daily Telegraph thinks so.

I’d sort of written him off – his expected Test average is 29 (based on the last four years’ red ball data). Malan will be 34 by the time the next Ashes comes round, an age where most batsmen are on the way down.

But he is at the top end of English batsmen. To choose between this clump of high-20s-low-30s batsmen we need to ask ourselves who is most likely to perform in Australia?

You can be pretty sure of the attack (Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins, Lyon). That means you need talented batsmen who are also confident against LF, RFM, RF, OS. You also need batsmen who would be suited to Australian conditions. Let’s measure Malan against those requirements:


Malan’s red ball numbers (1,005 runs at 48 in Div 2 2019 then 332 runs at 66 last year) are pretty good, but not indicative of a sparkling Test career (D2 is about 40% easier to bat in than Tests, the Bob Willis Trophy 30% easier). Malan is good enough that a summer averaging 50 might edge him past the competition.

Ashes Matchups

We can see his Test record, splitting bowlers by type. However, he’s only played 15 Tests. Ideally we’d have county stats to back this up. I don’t have that – so we’ll need to use something else.

This might be wrong, but I’m going to include Malan’s stats from T20/T20I to get a better view of his ability against different bowling types. Rather than measuring average for T20, I’ll use Strike Rate – since that’s what batsmen are judged on.

  • Left Arm Fast: A possible weak spot. Averaging 24 in Tests isn’t too worrying in isolation (it’s only four dismissals). But add in the 114 SR in T20 and there’s more than a hint of a weakness.
  • Right Arm Fast: Solid stats.
  • Off Spin: We know that as a left hander, facing offspin will be relatively challenging. After five dismissals Malan has done OK. But his T20 stats (SR 108) say it’s a relative weakness.

Australian conditions

Possibly a bit better than his overall record? 383 runs at 43 in Tests, but SR of 114 in the Big Bash last winter.

Overall, Dawid Malan would be a gamble for 2021 Ashes selection. A possible weakness against Left Arm Fast and Off Spin could leave him exposed.

But, there’s a summer between now and then. When we get closer to the Ashes we can consider who the best options are for each spot in the batting order.


The most interesting thing about the above analysis is the hypothesis that matchups can carry over from red to white ball cricket. It doesn’t prove anything, but I had a look at a couple of other players.

Root is great against OS. He’s weakest against RF in all formats.
Bairstow does not like fast bowling.

How many innings before we can accurately predict T20I Strike Rate?

Last time I looked at how long it takes for averages to mean something. Thought I’d try the same analysis for 20-20 Strike Rates. How long before a player’s 20-20 SR is a fair representation of that player?

Play for long enough and a batsman’s Strike Rate reflects their ability. However, in the early stages their career Strike Rate will be volatile as the sample is small. One significant factor is the impact of average on Strike Rate: most innings accelerate as they go on, so one big score early on will give a player a temporarily favourable career SR.

The below chart shows T20I Strike Rates for all players with 60+ Innings since 2009, split by their first ten, twenty or thirty innings (x axis) and then subsequent innings (y axis). Note that the acceleration in T20 scoring in recent years means most players scored faster in their later innings.

Consider the players who had a SR of 130 in their first 30 innings: one (Dilshan) stuttered and struck at 114 afterwards. Another (Nabi) scored at 156 per hundred balls in subsequent T20Is. If you have a player that has scored at eight an over in their first 30 innings, you may only know that they’ll score at between seven and nine per over from then on. Not very insightful.

Tom Banton has a T20 SR of 160 after 25 dismissals. That’s too few innings to be confident in him maintaining that scoring rate, but enough to say he’s probably a 140+ SR batsman.

Another recent example comes from Dawid Malan:

I don’t know what else I can do to break into the team for the T20 World Cup. I don’t know how you can be under pressure with an average over 57 and a strike rate over 150

Dawid Malan, Sky Sports Cricket Blog

Malan has done very well in his nine T20Is. Yet that tells us little about how we would expect him to perform in the future. Fortunately, T20 players get a lot of stamps in their passports- Malan scored at 145 per 100 balls in the Banglasdesh Premier League and 148 in the most recent Blast. It’s just a case of doing the legwork to calculate an expected Strike Rate at international level. I’ll leave it to the T20 experts to work out whether Malan is worth a spot in the World Cup squad.

Of England’s current players, only Roy and Morgan have more than 30 completed innings in T20Is. There’s insufficient international data. Yet most batsmen have played over 100 innings in T20 leagues – plenty to have a good read on them.

Summing up, there’s too few T20Is to use them to set expected average/strike rate in later T20Is. Far better to set this expectation based on club stats, adjusted for difficulty. There’s even enough data to weight analysis towards more recent performances. Also, beware small sample sizes: even 30 completed innings are too few. Anything under 100 innings and you should apply some judgement to the data.