Despite having the best recent batting record of any of England’s first-choice ODI top-four, Dawid Malan came into the third match against New Zealand under pressure.

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He missed the second ODI in Southampton for the birth of his second child and, with Harry Brook given a shot at opening, England had four top order options in their squad. One of them will most likely not be part of their World Cup XV next month. While Malan is in that squad currently, his place in the XI is less secure. With Ben Stokes back in as a No.4, Root also back in the side free from the Test schedule and Jonny Bairstow’s leg now healed, Malan’s spot is no longer guaranteed despite his excellent ODI record.

England’s expected World Cup order would see Malan miss out, with Jason Roy above him in the pecking order. Given Malan can bat anywhere in the top four, having him as a backup option over Roy, a specialist opener, makes more sense. However, Roy had a second back spasm in the space of a week this morning and has yet to play a game in this series. It’s given Malan an opportunity to push past him in the first-choice XI.

Malan’s recent ODI record is outstanding. Since June last year, he averages 63.41 in 14 innings, with four hundreds and three fifties. His strike rate is 95.84, and he hasn’t gone longer than three consecutive innings without passing fifty. For England, only Jos Buttler has scored more runs in the same period, having played six more innings. Malan is equal on the most number of hundreds in that time of anyone in the world and, this year alone, has two centuries and three fifties.

Malan isn’t the Roy-type opener England have opted for in the past. He takes his time to get going and catches up on his scoring rate later. But, with Root still finding his feet back in ODI cricket and top-order seemingly more prone to collapse than in 2019, Malan could be what England need.

Regardless of his typical approach, with Bairstow and Root out early today, it was Malan who pushed the boundaries in the powerplay before Stokes took over the mantle. His strike rate never dropped far below a run a ball, and his 199-run partnership with Stokes got England out of jail.

England’s approach in 2019 relied on faith that one of their explosive batting lineup would come off. That’s what allowed Bairstow and Roy to be so aggressive in the powerplay and gave them the freedom to play their shots from ball one. So often, it came off. But with limited time to re-find their footing in ODI cricket before the World Cup, that consistency isn’t yet there. In Malan, they have someone they can rely on.

Not only did his innings today come when England needed someone to stand up, but all three of his most recent ODI centuries have been in similar circumstances. In an ODI in Bangladesh – in similar conditions to those the World Cup will be played in – Malan scored 114 not out, the next-highest score in England’s innings was 26. That was his second century in as many innings. Opening the innings previously in South Africa, England were at one point 14-3 before Malan dug in. Those both came within three months of his 134 not out against Australia in another lone effort.

With time running out for Roy to prove himself fit and in form for the World Cup, Malan’s consistency makes him an attractive alternative. Moreover, if Roy isn’t in the first-choice XI, it could make more sense for England to have Brook into the squad as a more versatile batting option and someone whose fitness is less of a question mark.

Nevertheless, the debate should no longer be whether Malan stays in England’s World Cup squad. He’s made a strong case for a place in the starting XI.