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Malan hopes to press England claims

Dawid Malan impressed for England Lions in the UAE before Christmas, and is back hoping to enhance his claims to a World Twenty20 berth

David Hopps
David Hopps
Dawid Malan made 51 from 44 balls, Pakistan A v England Lions, 1st unofficial T20I, Dubai

Dawid Malan impressed for England Lions on the T20 leg of their UAE tour  •  Chris Whiteoak

With two months to go until the World Twenty20, England's squad looks relatively settled. They have lost only one of their last seven matches since a failed campaign in 2014 ended with an ignominious defeat against The Netherlands in Chittagong. But if you were looking for a surprise uncapped addition to the squad then, among the batsmen at least, Dawid Malan must be in the running.
Alex Hales and Jason Roy are certain starters at the top of the order, but if England have space in their squad for a stand-by opener then Malan's excellent run of form both for Middlesex and England Lions can't be doing him any harm.
Malan was one of the stars of England Lions' pre-Christmas trip to the UAE with three T20 fifties against Pakistan A. His efforts were rounded off with a stellar display in the series decider. His 81 from 55 balls should have won the match in normal time - instead, after a late England collapse had led to a tie, he struck two boundaries in the Super Over to clinch the series 3-2.
Now he is back in the UAE again for the 50-over segment of the tour in an England Lions squad that retains the same batting unit for the five-match series, but makes changes in the bowling ranks with Liam Plunkett, Toby Roland-Jones and Craig Overton replacing Reece Topley, who is required for England's ODI leg in South Africa, Tymal Mills, whose back condition only allows him to play Twenty20, and left-arm spinner Danny Briggs.
Malan has always been a destructive hitter, but Andy Flower, who is overseeing the Lions' UAE schedule, and a man who chooses his words carefully, intimated that his game had become more reliable when he described him as "rock solid", adding: "He's a beautiful timer of the ball. He's been really consistent, but he's also been explosive at times."
The pair will join forces again with Peshawar in the Pakistan Super League, where Flower has been freed up by the ECB to act as batting coach, so completing a close season heavily focused on the Gulf. "I've enjoyed my time in Dubai, which suits my lifestyle outside cricket," Malan said. "I've not given the World Twenty20 much thought, but it would be nice to get a spot in one of the teams. I'm just focused on scoring as many runs as possible to try to make that happen. If someone with the pedigree of Andy Flower praises you then it gives you a lot of confidence."
If the runs keep flowing and he does make the cut for the tournament, he would not be the first batsman to attract England's attention in the build-up to a World T20 because of his exploits in the UAE. Michael Lumb's matchwinning half-century for the A team against England in Dubai six years ago, following on the heels of a stand-out season for Nottinghamshire and an IPL contract, won him a place in the squad for the 2010 tournament in the Caribbean, alongside his fellow newcomer and Lions team-mate, Craig Kieswetter. Both men played vital roles in what remains England's only victory in a major ICC competition.
Angus Fraser, Malan's director of cricket at Middlesex, called him "one of the more gifted players in county cricket" when he signed a new three-year deal ahead of the 2015 season. That summer was his finest to date as he recorded career-best hundreds in all three formats of the game.
He began with an unbeaten 115 off 64 balls as Middlesex beat Sussex at Hove, and even damaged a Ferrari with one of his biggest blows. An unbeaten 182 in the Championship transformed a match against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge, and to round it off he hit an unbeaten 156 as Middlesex completed their Royal London One-Day Cup campaign with victory against Glamorgan at Lord's.
Worse players have won IPL deals, but for the moment that is not on Malan's radar. His career averages rest around the mid-30s in all three formats, enough to encourage his classification as a stronger limited-overs player, but now that his heavy scoring has spread to the Championship, at 28 he is not about to abandon hope of an England Test cap.
"I haven't tried for IPL because I want to play all three formats for England," he said. "It would mean missing too much Championship cricket for Middlesex and I don't want to put myself at a disadvantage. If it doesn't happen over the next couple of years I might start putting my name in the hat"
Such career choices are far from easy, especially with England's attitude in a state of flux. Under Andrew Strauss's reign as the director of England cricket, players such as Adil Rashid and Jos Buttler know they can gain experience in overseas leagues with the blessings of the ECB. Malan, for now, does not have to face such a choice. He just wants to make runs for the Lions, and to keep impressing Flower, one of the toughest judges around.
"Is a great opportunity to test where you are," Flower told as the T20 leg of the tour ended, "not just in the scheme of other international cricketers, but also amongst your own peers from England. Because make no mistake, they're watching the people around them. Competition for places is the reality of selection."

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps