Dawid Malan reflected on a good day for Middlesex, and also on the influence of Gary Kirsten on the England Lions, after stroking a century to set up a second comfortable 50-over victory over Pakistan A in Dubai.
Malan’s 114 from 109 balls, which continued a prolific white-ball winter with the Lions after he top-scored with 253 runs from five innings in the T20 series victory before Christmas, was followed by three wickets for his county team-mate Toby Roland-Jones.
“Toby’s a fantastic bowler,” Malan said afterwards. “If there’s anything in the wicket he seems to find it, and he proved today he could do it up front with the new ball and then at the end when it was reversing a bit.”
Roland-Jones, one of three fresh faces in the Lions squad for the 50-over series, ended with three for 48 from his 10 overs, and there were also three wickets for Hampshire’s spinning allrounder Liam Dawson as Pakistan A were dismissed for 245 in reply to 314 for five.
The Lions had been planning to repeat the winning formula from the opening match of the series, bowling first in the hope of exploiting morning moisture given the 930am start. They had to rethink when Junaid Khan won the toss, but James Vince responded by stroking two blissful boundaries in the first over from the Pakistan left-armer, and adding two more in his second.
Vince, who had made 70 in the first match of the series, looked in such good touch that was a surprise when he fell for 29 in the 12th over. The Lions were in danger of losing momentum when Tom Westley went for 20 in the 22nd, leaving them 86 for two.
But Sam Billings joined Malan to inject extra urgency in a third-wicket stand of 70 in 10 overs, and Dawson maintained the momentum after the dismissal of the Kent wicketkeeper batsman for 31 from 34 balls.
Malan pulled one six to move to 94 and added a second after reaching three figures. He made 41 in the first match of the series and explained that despite his success in the T20 triumph, he feels more comfortable in the 50-over game.
“It suits the way I play,” he added. “I just go out there and bat, and trust my game to get me through, whereas in T20 you have to be a bit more inventive and take a few more calculated risks.”
Unlike the majority of the Lions, Malan was familiar with Kirsten before his arrival as a coaching consultant during this section of the tour, having worked with the former South Africa opener and coach on an individual basis in Cape Town.
“But I tried to hit balls with him every single day,” insisted the 28-year-old, who was born in London but raised in Paarl. “When you have a guy like Gary Kirsten hanging around, whether I’ve worked with him before or not, you don’t miss that opportunity to tap into his knowledge. It was great for all of us to have him around - the boys are all talking about how much they learned from him when he was here. He’s achieved everything as a player and coach in cricket, so you’d be stupid not to make the most of it.”
The Lions were also indebted to the Worcestershire team-mates Ross Whiteley and Joe Clarke for a freewheeling sixth-wicket stand of 66 in only 31 balls that allowed them to post such a formidable total.
Whiteley reached a 30-ball half century off the last ball of the innings, and Clarke launched three sixes in making 25 from only 13 deliveries. “It was a great feeling batting out there with Joe,” said Whiteley, who hit two sixes himself.
“Joe’s a smaller lad than me and not really known for his power hitting but he took a lot of pressure off me today. He came in and struck the ball really well. I was struggling to hit it down the ground and he was clearing the ropes which put me to shame a little bit. But it was great to see him flourish as another Worcester player.
“I’m pretty happy and relieved as well to get a few runs. As time goes on without getting runs you start to doubt yourself a little bit. Sometimes it’s tough to gather your thoughts. It was one of those situations today where I didn’t need to think about nudging it around. I just played my natural game, and thankfully it came off.”
The Lions will now aim to seal the series in the third match on Monday.