Dawid Malan is heading back to babysitting duty a satisfied man after silencing his World Cup sceptics.
The 36-year-old took Sunday’s game in Southampton off to spend time with his newly expanded family but, aware that there were no guarantees over his provisional place at next month’s tournament, declined the offer of extended paternity leave.
Instead, he returned to make 96 at the Kia Oval on Tuesday and followed up at the home of cricket with his fifth one-day century in just 21 appearances – a joint national record with Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott.
Those two knocks, as well as a half-century in the series opener, saw him named player of the series and turned speculation over his role in the squad into talk of him breaking into the first-choice XI.
For Malan, that is mission accomplished as he heads back home to reunite with his new arrival.
“They (England) were really good, they always gave me the option to stay at home if I wanted to but, speaking to my wife, we felt it was the right thing to come back and try to push for this,” he said after leading his side to a 100-run win.
“It was ‘score some runs, secure the spot for that World Cup’. Thankfully it’s come off and I think I’m on babysitting duties in the morning when I turn up!”
Malan was clearly happy to remove the notional question marks next to his name, but made it clear that any doubters were coming from outside the camp.
For a player who now boasts an average of an average of 61.52 and a strike-rate of 96.52 in the 50-over format, the 36-year-old could be forgiven for taking on his detractors.
“I need to be careful, I’m probably going to give another good headline here,” he joked.
“It is satisfying, from my point of view, to be able to silence some people who’ve always got some negative things to say – but that’s part of the game. My job is to score runs and, as long as I can keep doing that, hopefully I can keep the support inside the changing room.
“I’ve always felt backed by the guys who matter inside there. There was a little bit of noise around leading up but that’s that’s part of being a professional cricketer. Until you’re on the plane you never really know if you’re on it or not.
“I guess when you try and break into a team as good as this white-ball team has been – with (Joe) Root, (Ben) Stokes, (Jonny) Bairstow, (Jason) Roy, (Jos) Buttler – it’s incredibly tough and you have to score runs. That’s just the territory: you either have to be an absolute freak or you have to be so consistent to keep your name in the hat.
“I’ve had to be the consistent one and thankfully I’ve been able to do that.”
Malan’s chance at the top of the order came at the expense of long-term incumbent Roy, who missed all four games against New Zealand with back spasms.
England will continue to monitor him before they submit their final World Cup squad next week, with the possibility that he will be added to the second-string side due to face Ireland in a three-game series to check his fitness.