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Match Analysis

Malan shows how to play the perfect Mirpur innings

Playing his 28th game at the ground and 53rd in Bangladesh, he said the key was to "trust the method"

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Dawid Malan sweeps hard, Bangladesh vs England, 1st ODI, Mirpur, March 1, 2023

Dawid Malan was not new to the Shere Bangla National Stadium  •  AFP/Getty Images

You would think the best reply to a spinning, fizzing delivery at the Mirpur monster, is to blunt it with a dead bat. Think again.
The Shere Bangla National Stadium pitches, raging turners with uneven pace and bounce often from the same spot, reward the proactive batter who looks to pick singles and find the odd boundary. Staying deep inside the crease, being iffy on the front foot and unable to pick the turning ball often gets you into trouble here. Batters who negate the raging turner are often the ones with quick hands and feet movement, and eyes wide open.
Dawid Malan's unbeaten 114, his first century in Asia across formats that led England to a thrilling three-wicket win in the first ODI, had most of the elements of the perfect Mirpur innings. Malan was confident about every shot he played, which is the most crucial aspect of playing on these pitches. You cannot leave anything to chance.
Malan also played an understated knock - most unlike Bazball, or England's normal white-ball approach. Malan specialises in the slow-burner, and here in Mirpur, it became the perfect pairing.
Malan's secret weapon is his vast experience in Bangladesh, something that escaped many Bangladeshis, and a fact that would surprise many fans here. This was Malan's 53rd match overall in Bangladesh, his first for England though. He had played for Prime Doleshwar Club in the Dhaka Premier League for two seasons, in 2013-14 and 2014-15. English players usually go to Australia during their winter but in those two seasons when the PCB denied NOCs to Pakistani players, the DPL clubs went after many English and Afghan players.
Malan, who was still three years away from his international debut, lapped up the experience, scoring 902 runs in 24 matches, averaging 56.37 with a century and six fifties. He was one of only two batters to breach the 900-run barrier in those two seasons, after Rony Talukdar's 919 runs.
Malan said that this experience in Bangladesh was a priceless asset to have when tackling the tricky chase of 210 in Mirpur. His stints here also include four seasons in the BPL. He played two matches for this season's eventual champions Comilla Victorians too.
"The more you can play in different conditions, the more your game grows," Malan said after his match-winning knock. "Whether you are successful in the past or not, it is just great to learn in different conditions. I have had some experience here. It is not the easiest wicket to start on. It is to trust the method to get through the tough times, and cash in towards the end, especially when it gets dewy.
"I think Owais Shah messaged me that Ravi Bopara got in touch to play a few 50-over games for Prime Doleshwar. It was brilliant to play two seasons for them. It helped my game. You get to play the ball a lot squarer in England.
"Here, the wickets are skiddy during the day. It gets better as the game goes on and gets slower in the evening. I had to learn to spin in a different way than I played in England. It helped my game progress massively before the franchise stuff happened. It was a massive help."
Malan called it probably the best innings of his career, including domestic knocks, simply because of how well he tackled the difficult conditions, with wickets also falling regularly at the other end.
"I think even domestic cricket, talking about knocks that you, when you retire you can walk away, think it was extremely satisfying, this was definitely up there. Just the situation of the game, to be out there in the end. It is one of my better innings in my whole career.
"It got a bit dewy, and the ball was skidding on. We started early because the dew plays a massive factor here. We thought that it might get slightly easier in the end, if we were still in the game. The key was to keep yourself in the game as long as possible."
Malan said that he was craving for opportunities in ODIs for a long time, and that patience finally paid off. "It is great to be playing ODIs for England," he said. "I have carried the drinks since 2017, waited for the opportunity.
"I've only played 16 games now, so it is great to get a bit of a run. It is obviously due to the scheduling, injuries, etc. I have absolutely loved it. It has been really good. It is always nice to contribute to win games."
Malan explained that it was key to take the game deep in these type of conditions, rather than think that a low run-rate or a high asking rate is fatal. He said that once the chase goes beyond 35 overs, it becomes easier for the chasing side.
"I think the hardest thing is that you feel that you are behind the game," he said. "You can be a long way behind in your feelings of the game, but actually in the context of the game, you are actually two or three shots away from bringing the game back in the balance.
"If you are 80 in 23-24 overs, you'd panic in a normal game. You'd try to put your foot down. But you can lose the game in the first 30-35 overs here. But if you are still batting by that time, you are in a good shout to win the game."
Malan's understanding of the game, particularly in Bangladesh, paved the way for England to take a crucial 1-0 lead. Playing his 28th match at this venue, he showed how crucial having the experience of alien conditions can turn out to be even in a pressure situation.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84