“England are sending one of their worst ever batting line-ups to Australia and will lose the Ashes series 5-0” – veteran broadcaster Jim Maxwell
“[This] is the weakest party I have seen sent down under from these shores” – Test Match Special’s Jonathan Agnew
“If Australians weren’t already feeling confident of their chances in the up-coming Magellan Ashes series then they look set to be delighted when England announce their squad for the tour in London on Wednesday” – the Cricket Australia website
“I didn’t really think I’d get a Test match – I always thought one-day and T20 cricket were my strongest formats, where I have been consistent” – Dawid Malan
In case the above quotes hadn’t made the point abundantly clear, there are a fair few people who don’t fancy England’s chances in the upcoming Ashes series. Predictions of another 5-0 whitewashing were already being thrown around, even before Ben Stokes decided to try and punch away his fear. But all those nay-sayers, every single one of them, are completely and utterly wrong. And over the course of a small number of articles and a large number of bottles of gin, we are going to explain why.
Basically, we’re going to decry everything that anybody else says as fake news while sticking religiously to our view of the truth. If only the unfair media would do the same!
The starting point for this act of bravery/insanity is with one Dawid Malan, star of such innings as 1 from 17 balls (b. Rabada) vs. South Africa at Old Trafford and 8 from 39 balls (b. Holder) vs. West Indies at Headingley. As Test careers go it’s not been the greatest start, with a Ramprakash-esque average of 23.62 after five matches (plus one expensive over of optimistic leg spin). But we firmly believe that Malan will come good Down Under, for the following reasons:
There’s a widely held belief that England’s recent selections at the top of the order have involved little more than picking names out of a hat, or throwing a shitload of mud at the wall and seeing what sticks. But somewhere along the line (presumably in the bits where Trevor Bayliss isn’t involved), some thought has actually gone into getting Malan into the England setup. This is a man who averages 78 in T20I cricket, for a start, making him the second greatest player of all time in the format (behind Ehsan Khan of Hong Kong, as you almost certainly knew). Plus there were just shy of a thousand County Championship runs in 2016, at an average in excess of 43.22, plus a bucket of runs for the Lions. And if that doesn’t prove that he can actually bat, we don’t know what will. Apart from maybe some runs at Test level.
For the last decade or so, almost all the decent English batsmen have been born outside of England: Strauss, Trott, Pietersen, Compton, Prior and Stokes. Plus a fair few that would be flattered by the description of ‘decent’: Jennings, Ballance, Sam Robson, Tim Ambrose, Geraint Jones and probably a few others that we’ve forgotten about. While Malan was actually born in Roehampton, he grew up in South Africa, presumably learning the local trades, such as scoring lots of runs without getting out and living inside massive security fences, afraid to venture out for fear of being murdered by the indigenous population for the loose change in his pocket. Both of these skills will be extremely useful in Australia.
It’s a well-known fact that being able to bowl leg-spin is an instant guarantee of success at Test level. Just ask Ian Salisbury, Bryce McGain, Adil Rashid or Scott Borthwick. Malan can bowl leg-spin. And, most cunningly of all, England have very cleverly kept him completely hidden from view, denying Australia the chance to study his various mystery deliveries before he is unleashed at the Gabba. Especially if their analyst nipped to the loo during that Test against the West Indies and missed him turning his arm over six times to almost no effect.
Obviously, he’s no Plunkers or Nick Compton – who is? – but he has the sort of face that this writer’s mum would go crazy for, were it not for the fact that she’s been dead for more than ten years. Not that that’s Dawid Malan’s fault – he would have been 19 at the time and almost certainly not responsible for an increase in a random person’s cancerous cells. To conclude then, Dawid Malan: quite handsome.
This is probably the main reason we’re getting behind Dawid Malan. James Vince is rubbish. Seriously rubbish. We’re talking Crystal Palace levels of not being good here. If he were a character in a TV soap he’d be Sonya in Neighbours. And fans of the show will know that’s not the sort of heinous insult to be thrown around lightly.