England’s ODI series against Australia is, for some, an exercise in futility, but for others it’s an important chance to impress. Dawid Malan falls into the latter camp.

The T20I behemoth was denied a chance to impact the final stages of England’s T20 World Cup win by a hamstring injury, but a majestic century in the opening ODI has raised the possibility of another global tournament tilt, in India next winter.

Malan rates 50-over cricket as his best format, something borne out by the statistics. He has a List A average of 43, compared to a first-class average of 38 and a T20 average of 33. His chances for England in ODIs have been limited by their strength in the format, but he has impressed when he has been given a chance. Ten ODIs have brought two centuries, an average of 64.71, and a strike rate of 96.58. It’s a small sample size, but if Malan continues as he has been, keeping him out of the XI may prove tough.

Luckily for him, his run of form has come at a time of rare flux for England in ODI cricket. The twin retirements of Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes have left them with at least two spots to fill in the batting line-up.

Drop Roy, open with Malan

Up until this summer, the thought of Jason Roy not playing a part in England’s ODI World Cup title defence was unthinkable, let alone the prospect of him not playing a part in the T20 World Cup in Australia. However, a horrific run of form has seen him axed from the T20I set-up, with his ODI place increasingly in danger.

Roy has more credit in the bank in ODIs than in T20Is. He is one of only a handful of players to average 40 and strike above a run a ball, but after another failure in the first game against Australia, England may have to make a difficult decision before long. While he’s a fearsome ball striker when he gets in, Malan is not a player in the Roy mould, preferring to take his time to get set rather than attacking from ball one. But if England do decide to move on from Roy, there is no clear next in line, and a safe pair of hands who can bat big and bat long might be an appealing option.

Drop Root, play Malan at No.3

Joe Root’s ODI pedigree is not in doubt. Very, very few players have averaged 50 in Test and ODI cricket, as he does now, and he was a key part of the side which won the 2019 Cricket World Cup, making two centuries in England’s title charge. His average has dropped to 35 since that tournament, but if England were to leave Root out, it would have more to do with how central he is to England’s Test plans. Given his proficiency against spin and unmatched consistency, this is an unlikely option.

Play Malan at No.4

England are currently without a first-choice No.4 following the retirements of Morgan and Stokes. James Vince took up the role in the first ODI but is unlikely to long-term, and while Jos Buttler has an incredible record at second-drop – averaging 73 with a strike rate of 167 – that is boosted by him often being promoted in favourable situations. Moving him up the order permanently would leave a gap elsewhere.

Malan is an option. His inclusion alongside Root might be a less dynamic pairing than England are generally happy with, but their selection of Stokes at No.4 in the T20 World Cup suggests that that is less of an issue now than in the Morgan-Bayliss era, and some caution might be the best option in a World Cup in India, where the tracks are less flat than in England.

This is Malan’s best route into the first-choice XI, but he faces stiff competition. Ben Duckett starred on England’s T20I tour of Pakistan, and would surely be in this squad were it not for his Test recall. And the spectre of Stokes, who England white-ball coach Matthew Mott hopes will ‘unretire’ from ODIs, looms large. But Malan has shown before that he is able to make himself undroppable through sheer weight of runs. Don’t bet against him doing so again.