Dawid Malan can make the transition from fringe player to T20 fulcrum on Tuesday as England seek to protect their new status as the world’s No 1 team with a rejigged top order against Australia.
The decision by vice-captain Jos Buttler, who inspired England to a series-clinching 2-0 lead on Sunday with a blistering unbeaten 77, to leave the team bubble early and spend time with his family means Malan will come in after an opening pair of Jonny Bairstow and Tom Banton – with both players looking to push the injured Jason Roy for the chance to become Buttler’s permanent opening partner.
Health checks permitting, Buttler will return in time for the three-match one-day series starting in Manchester on Friday.
But with ECB medical staff monitoring the state of Eoin Morgan’s right ring finger after it was dislocated in the field during England’s six-wicket win at the weekend, there is an outside chance the captaincy could pass to Moeen Ali for the first time in his career.
England were hopeful that Morgan, who batted on Sunday with the injury, will be fit to complete the series, but Buttler’s absence – and Banton’s promotion – leaves a slot free in the middle order for one of Sam Billings, Joe Denly or reserve batsman Liam Livingstone to fill. Billings must be favourite after batting at No 6 in the recent series against Pakistan.
Whatever the extent of England’s reshuffle, there will be onus on Malan to build on a remarkable T20 record that has left him with the highest batting average – 50.84 – in the history of the game. Even India’s genius Virat Kohli, by 0.04 of a run, has been left in his wake.
Malan’s contributions to England’s two wins over Australia – 66 off 43 balls and 42 off 37 – mean he has passed 50 in eight of his 15 T20 internationals. And he has done it all at a strike-rate of almost 148 (Kohli’s strike-rate is 10 fewer). Yet debate remains over whether he is a peripheral player forever trying to catch his captain’s eye, or a shoo-in for the World Cup starting in India next year.
‘When you get limited opportunities, you have to