England are backing Dawid Malan to relocate his world-beating Twenty20 form in their series decider against India.
Malan is ranked as the format’s number one international batsman, having put together a phenomenal sequence of scores between his recall in November 2019 and the end of 2020, but has been quiet over the past four games.
Having averaged 55 with a punishing strike-rate of 149.01 in his previous 14 matches, the 33-year-old has failed to get going against India with 80 runs in total and at a less-than-explosive rate of 103.89.
While Malan’s unprecedented output was always likely to dip at some point, his habit of feeling his way into an innings before exploding into life has retreated at an awkward time as England look to finalise their plans for the T20 World Cup later this year.
But assistant coach Paul Collingwood has every faith Malan is ready to do damage, with a 2-2 scoreline providing the perfect stage heading into Saturday’s ‘final’.
“Dawid hasn’t quite found his rhythm on this tour but you’ve got to remember where he is in the world rankings and that’s no fluke,” said Collingwood.
“What he’s done with an England shirt on in T20 cricket is pretty much exceptional up until this series. He’ll be the first person to say it hasn’t gone quite as well as he’d like in the first four games but he’s got an opportunity again to do something special.
“He’s been unbelievably consistent, to the point where you know fine well once he gets in he will go on and get a big score. Sometimes it only takes one shot that comes out of the middle of the bat that gets you going again – we have all been there.
“Hopefully (this match) is the day. One thing this team has done in the past four years, this new era of white-ball cricket, is back their cricketers.
“As a player you need security of knowing you’re not going to get dropped after a couple of games because we do ask a lot of them. They go out there and are expected to score at strike-rates of up to 140. If you look at his record, Dawid Malan does exactly that for us.”
Moving Ben Stokes up the order, welcoming back Alex Hales from exile or recalling Test captain Joe Root have all been mooted as possible back-up plans should Malan’s struggles linger but Collingwood believes a settled group is one of the current side’s strong suits.
He captained England when they became T20 world champions in 2010, leading a side that saw key personnel like Craig Kieswetter and Michael Lumb drafted in at the very last minute, but likes the look of Eoin Morgan’s well-rehearsed team.
“The team in 2010 came together at the last moment and we took a few risks on selection,” he recalled.
“We knew what kind of cricket we wanted to play but it hadn’t been drilled into us over a long period like this team has. I think we’ll be feared by a lot of teams this time because of our white-ball form over the last few years. I don’t think we could be in a better place going into a World Cup.
“This game feels like another great opportunity to get experience of knockout cricket under our belt. It’s like a final for us with two fantastic sides going head to head. It’s a huge match and both teams know it.”
Collingwood had some tough times as a player in India, experiencing 5-0 and 5-1 defeats in the 50-over format, so knows better than most how big an achievement is up for grabs.
“Coming away from India with a series win should be a huge incentive, it is one of the toughest places to come in the world,” he said.
“It would show how far we have come as a white-ball team during this last four or five years.”
– Meanwhile, England have been fined 20 per cent of their match fees for maintaining a slow over-rate in Thursday’s clash.