Dawid Malan has never played in a full-strength England team in a T20 international. He has never played alongside more than three of their 50-over World Cup top six, and whenever the big guns have returned, he has found himself left out.

"I still believe I can play international cricket," Malan said in March, days before England started their T20I series in the Caribbean. "I still believe I'm good enough. You always want to play more and, when you average 50 with a strike rate of 150, you do, probably selfishly, think you should be playing a bit more."

In each of the three games in that series, he was left out.

But almost every time Malan plays a game in the format, he seems to push his case forward even more. His record in T20Is is now freakish: he has a strike-rate of 156.31 while averaging 57.25, marrying belligerence with consistency. He has gone past the fifty mark six times in nine innings in a 'solar red' England shirt. To give that some context, the fewest innings it had taken someone to make that many fifty-plus score from debut was 15 (KL Rahul). He is also only the second player to make that many fifty-plus scores in nine innings - Virat Kohli did made six in eight innings between April 2014 and January 2016.

His innings on Friday - just the second hundred in T20Is by an Englishman, and the fastest - was his best in the format. He was particularly destructive against Ish Sodhi's legspin, taking the 11 balls he faced from him for 36 runs, but he hit every bowler he faced for at least two boundaries. "It's not very often you have days like that in your career," he reflected.

Perhaps the most pleasing element for Malan was the ruthlessness he showed. In the defeats at Wellington and Nelson, there was a lingering feeling that he had thrown the game away: in both games, he was caught in the deep on 39 and 55 respectively. But at Napier, he batted through and saw England to their highest T20I total, as if to prove his unforgiving nature.

It all seemed a long way from the first game of the series, in which he looked completely out of sorts against the pace of Lockie Ferguson. "The first game I felt really rusty," he told Sky. "I didn't feel like I had any rhythm - I was struggling to get my hands up at the right time. Every time I've hit balls [since then] it's felt smoother and smoother.

"These days don't come around often, so it's so enjoyable when they do. To do it on the biggest stage is a fantastic experience."

The question for England, then, is if they dare to leave Malan out again. It seems unfathomable that they could omit any of Jonny Bairstow, Jason Roy and Jos Buttler from their first-choice team. Eoin Morgan is a certain pick based on his batting form in this series and as the captain; Ben Stokes is perhaps the best anchoring batsman in the country; and Moeen Ali has a superb T20 record, against spin in particular.

All that means that there are a few big losers out of Malan's innings.

The first is Alex Hales, whose path back into the England side looks less clear than ever. Once the first name on the T20 teamsheet, Hales' stock had fallen even before his deselection from the 50-over World Cup squad - he was pushed down to No. 3 and No. 4 during the 2018 home summer - and the implication from Ashley Giles and Chris Silverwood is that runs in franchise leagues will not be enough. Even if he did, would it be worth the risk of bringing him back into the dressing room when England are so blessed with options at the top of the order?

And the second is Joe Root. While Morgan's suggestion after the first T20I that England were "missing seven players" seemed to include Root, he has played just 15 games of T20 cricket in the past 24 months, with a top score of 55, an average of 24.50 and a cautious strike rate of 126.18 in that period.

The rise of Malan is particularly relevant to him. Root's role in England's team would be as an 'anchor', an insurance policy at No. 3, but there is every reason to think that Stokes and Malan are just as able in that role. Malan's strike rate in the first ten balls of a T20I innings is 118.88, reflecting an initial conservatism before he frees his arms after setting himself; while those who recall his 44-ball 83 against South Africa in the last World T20 will disagree, there is little recent evidence that Root possesses as strong an attacking game.

And finally, Malan's innings puts him clear of England's other fringe batsmen in the pecking order. Ed Smith's apparent obsession with the idea of turning Joe Denly into a middle-order batsman must surely be over with the T20 World Cup homing into view, while Sam Billings and James Vince have struggled to press their respective cases in this series so far. Tom Banton has demonstrated his clear ability with two cameos in New Zealand, but given England's wealth of top-order batsmen, it may take something special in the final game - or, more likely, a prolific run in a T20 league this winter - for him to stay in immediate contention.

But regardless of its connotations, Malan's innings was, in his words, "very special" - if it leaves England with a selection problem, then it is a good one to have.