Coach believes Middlesex batsmen should be in contention for England call-ups
Middlesex batting coach David Houghton believes Dawid Malan’s run of form should put him in the frame for an international call-up in the near future.
Malan, who turns 28 on Thursday, has amassed more runs in all forms of cricket than any other Middlesex batsman this season – despite missing a number of games through two separate injuries.
The classy left-hander went into his side’s current County Championship match against Warwickshire with an impressive average of almost 84, including two hundreds and three half-centuries from just six games.
And, although Malan missed out when the England selectors named their squad for the current limited-overs series against Australia, Houghton feels international recognition cannot be too far away.
“Dawid Malan’s a particularly hard worker at his game,” said the former Zimbabwe captain. “He’s one of those players who likes to hit a volume of balls, lots and lots of them.
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“He’s got a very good technique and even when he had a broken finger we lobbed tennis balls at him that he could hit with one hand.
“We talked about improving his one-day cricket in the middle overs, which is more of a mental thing – it’s about being able to keep the graph of your innings going upwards.
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“He’s ironed out a few other things as well and I would hope Dawid’s name is certainly on the table when the England selectors are picking their squads.
“I think he is certainly someone they would talk about and sooner rather than later. The way he’s played over the last couple of years, a role with the A (Lions) side would be a good option at this stage.”
Malan also topped Middlesex’s batting averages in their Royal London One-Day Cup campaign but, while he also performed well in the NatWest T20 Blast, that honour in the shortest format went to John Simpson.
Despite the Lord’s side’s modest T20 showing, their wicketkeeper – who moved up the batting order to three or four during the tournament – shone with a trio of big half-centuries and an average of over 45.
Houghton thinks that, if Simpson can translate that form with the bat into four-day cricket, there is no reason why he too cannot stake his claim for an England place.
“In his review at the end of last season, John Simpson talked about the need to be more flexible and get people up the order, although maybe not specifically with himself in mind,” added the coach.
“His move up the order was almost enforced through injuries, but we certainly felt it was worth trying and his response to the opportunity was fantastic.
“He’s a very clean hitter of the ball and he’s got the most amazing timing. But he’s still got the target from me of turning good starts into big scores in the longer form of the game, which he hasn’t done yet this season.
“There aren’t many places in the England side that are cemented down and we’ve got a number of guys who, when they’re having a run of form, will be on the selectors’ radar.
“You need people who are going to be pushing in a keeping/batting role and Simmo’s someone who should be pushing for a role in the Test side as much as the one-day side.”
As well as strong performances from the likes of Malan and Simpson, the Lord’s side have also been strengthened this season by solid contributions further down the order.
Toby Roland-Jones, who had already built a reputation as a useful lower-order batsman in previous seasons, has averaged almost 25 in the County Championship this year.
Roland-Jones and Ollie Rayner have both notched Championship half-centuries during the current campaign, while James Harris has also begun to show his capability with the bat, passing 50 twice.
“Harry has as good a technique as anyone in the top five or six and, given the opportunity, he could bat there as a proper all-rounder,” Houghton declared.
“It’d be interesting to see what happened if he wasn’t able to bowl for a while and played purely as a batsman. I’d be surprised if he went through the season without scoring a couple of hundreds.
“Net practices used to mean all the batsmen went in and the others got a few throw-downs if they were lucky. But these days you almost can’t afford to have a ‘tail’ – and we’ve got as good a lower order as anybody.
“In fact, I wouldn’t say we have any actual tailenders at all. These guys have put in a lot of work and the fact they’re harder to get out and they’re making contributions to the innings is not an accident.”