CricViz analyst Ben Jones profiles Dawid Malan.
Many thought that if Dawid Malan was ever to play international cricket it would be in the limited overs formats. Indeed, that was how his international career began as he was selected in a second-string England T20 team against South Africa. However, a sparky innings of 78 on debut caught the eye of England’s head coach Trevor Bayliss and despite a first class average of less than 40 Malan was propelled into the Test team at number five. Malan struggled in his first two Tests against South Africa, scoring 35 runs in four innings but two fifties in the series against the Windies earned him a spot in the Ashes squad.
OFF SIDE ACCUMULATOR
Given Malan’s pedigree in limited-overs cricket it has been assumed that he is a natural shotmaker. However, closer analysis of his method in county cricket shows him to be a relatively staid player in the longer format; attacking only 22% of his deliveries against pace (county average 26%) and playing no shot to 27% (county average 22%). This intent has so far been translated into the Test arena as well where he has only attacked 18% of deliveries (global average 24%). He has compensated for this restraint by playing rotating shots 33% of the time (global average 28%) and as such it is fairer to describe Malan as an accumulator rather than an aggressor.
In his first-class career Malan has shown a clear preference for playing on the off side against pace and spin where he scores 69% of his runs against both bowler-types (global average 50% and 44%). The principal reason for this is Malan’s strength when given width – something which is apparent in his average of 93.31 when driving and 71.87 when cutting and is illustrated by the Boundary Heatmap.
Malan’s technique may also be a contributing factor – he does have a tendency to plant his front foot early which means his front pad can get in the way of his bat-swing, making playing on the leg side difficult. This technical quirk also makes him a prime lbw candidate which is supported by dismissal data which shows 18% of his dismissals are lbw (global average 14%). This was something that was quickly picked up on at Test level with Kagiso Rabada and Chris Morris dismissing him on debut with full balls that moved back into Malan and breached his defence.
Malan’s average of 45.82 against spin is almost ten runs higher than his average of 35.87 against pace. Closer analysis of Malan’s record shows him to average 47.92 against leg spin and left arm orthodox spin – balls turning into him – but just 37.20 against off spin – balls turning away from him.
It should be noted that Malan’s short Test career so far has been marked by considerable bad luck. Of those in the England squad, Malan averages the fewest false shots (edges and misses) per dismissal. On average, Malan only needs to edge or miss the ball six times to be dismissed, less than half the number for Alastair Cook, for example, who averages 13 false shots before being dismissed.
Malan’s tendency to plant his front foot and vulnerability to being lbw manifests itself in his first-class average of just 32.97 against full pace bowling. Australia should look to pitch the ball full to Malan, especially early in his innings, and their bowler best suited to do this is Mitchell Starc who has taken more Test wickets with full deliveries than anyone since the start of 2015.
Malan’s relatively poor record against off spin should encourage Nathan Lyon who averages just 25.76 against left-handers compared to 34.91 against right-handers. It is typical for left-handers to struggle with the ball turning away from them but it could be exaggerated in Malan’s case by his preference for scoring on the off side which leaves him vulnerable to balls sneaking between bat and pad as he attempts scoring shots away from his body. Lyon gets 6cm more bounce than typical off spinners and bowls at a good pace – traits that could prove problematic if Malan is loose outside off stump.