MalAnalysis

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:

Talent

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.

Appendix

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.