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Sport: How secure is Malan's T20 spot?

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The No 1-ranked batter in T20I cricket usually features at No 3 for England - but against West Indies he was nowhere to be seen.

Further down the order Dawid Malan slid on Saturday as England looked to reach their target of 56 rapidly, with Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Liam Livingstone and Eoin Morgan all entering ahead of him.

How secure is Dawid Malan's place in the England T20 side? © PA How secure is Dawid Malan's place in the England T20 side?

The chances are Malan would have come in at No 7 but a No 7 was not required with Jos Buttler pulling away the winning boundary as England claimed a six-wicket win with 70 balls to spare in Dubai.

Head coach Chris Silverwood said that Malan was "fine" with the call, stressing his importance to the side as a "glue".

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Silverwood said on Sunday: "It's common knowledge that we want flexibility in that batting line-up - we saw an opportunity to get that run rate up and we took it. That's why we did it, Dawid was fine about it.

"We wanted to get the runs as quickly as possible to potentially give us a buffer zone later down the line.

"The reason Dawid is in the side is that he can act like a glue for us. We have a lot of power around him and just because we decided to go for power on this occasion, on other days we wouldn't."

In the early overs in the UAE, though, it is perhaps not an adhesive that England need, but an artillery.

Former England captain Michael Atherton said: "It's a fairly obvious point, and one that has been made before, that if pitches slow a bit in the UAE and the ball starts to grip, then that powerplay becomes exceptionally important as it is harder to catch up later on.

Twenty20 World Cup talking points ahead of England’s opener against West Indies

  Twenty20 World Cup talking points ahead of England’s opener against West Indies There is debate about England’s final XI.Debate about England’s final XI seems likely to carry on until the toss at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, with England captain Eoin Morgan renowned for keeping his cards close to his chest.

"That then accentuates the way Malan plays. Some players come out of the blocks very quickly - Jason Roy, for example - while others take a bit of time to get going, which is Malan's way. That way has been very successful for him but in the UAE it adds to the question mark around his place."

Malan's T20 international average of 43.19 and strike-rate of 139 are not too shabby - but those figures drop to 26.80 and 114.52 respectively in his 11 T20 international innings in 2021.

Aside from a 48-ball 76 against Sri Lanka in Southampton, he has only made double figures once more in his last six knocks with a 33-ball 31 against Pakistan at Emirates Old Trafford.

His strike-rate during the five T20 internationals in India earlier this year was 120, again down on his career record, and in England's two World Cup warm-up games ahead of the World Cup, Malan did what his critics fear - took his time getting in and then fell before posting a substantial score, with a run-a-ball 18 against India followed by a 15-ball 11 against New Zealand.

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England have kept faith with the left hander but will they continue to do so?

CricViz analyst Freddie Wilde said: "England recognise Malan plays a very different role to the likes of Bairstow and Moeen etc.

"But [the decision to move him down the order against West Indies] shows some of the outside criticism, that he starts too slowly and is not explosive enough, is also held in the England dressing room.

"I don't think that means they aren't going to continue to pick him but I think it is a recognition that England understand his limitations."

England seemed to get their team selection spot on against West Indies with off-spinning all-rounder Moeen (2-17) bowling four overs off the reel and enjoying success turning the ball away from the left handers.

Bangladesh - England's next opponents on Wednesday, a game you can watch live on Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event from 10.30am - picked three left-handers in their top six during the defeat to Sri Lanka.

Wilde thinks captain Morgan may go in with the same three-spinner, three-seamer approach - Moeen, Adil Rashid and Liam Livingstone were the spin options against West Indies, although Livingstone did not bowl, with Tymal Mills, Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes providing the pace.

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However, with England's next game after that against a right-hander heavy Australia, Wilde feels they may want to bring another bowler into the mix, which could leave Malan sweating on his place.

"I wonder whether further into the tournament if this particular team balance is going to be challenged - Australia, for example, have a run of right-handers in the middle order after David Warner at the top.

"I think it is unlikely that England drop Moeen, even in games where teams have lots of right-handers and not many left-handers, as he is such a valuable cricketer and I think they recognise that.

"I think that will bring the Malan question back up to the surface again, although I don't think it will necessarily be relevant against Bangladesh as they have enough left-handers for England to get by."

Wednesday's encounter against Bangladesh provides Malan with a chance to show his worth and to, be fair, he has done that a lot in his T20 international career to date.

In his 30 innings in the format, he has passed fifty 12 times, including when he scored a 48-ball century against New Zealand in Napier in 2019.

Malan has earned his place in the side and his No 1 ranking but, as Nasser Hussain said before the tournament, Morgan has no qualms about making ruthless decisions. Watch this space.

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Watch England take on Bangladesh, in Abu Dhabi, live on Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event from 10.30am on Wednesday.

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