DAWID MALAN faces a crucial four days in Bristol this week after being given one last chance to rediscover his form.
The Middlesex left-hander burst onto the scene last season with a match-winning century in the Twenty20 Cup quarter-final against Lancashire at the Oval, and followed up with a century on his County Championship debut against Northants at Uxbridge.
Such efforts earned him a new contract and cemented his place in the Panthers’ middle-order.
A fruitful pre-season in Dubai and 80s in two of the first three championship games of the season followed, but since then the 21-year-old’s form has hit the skids to such a degree he can’t buy a run.
And with youngsters like Sam Robson breaking through and Adam London and Dan Housego waiting in the wings, coach Toby Radford confirmed Thursday’s Championship game with leaders Gloucester would be Malan’s last chance to deliver.
He said: "We haven’t picked the team for Bristol yet but I think the feeling is we would give him that game.
"I think beyond that if he didn’t get runs there you’d have to say we have got two or three blokes in the two’s like Robson who have been getting runs who could come in and do a job."
Eyebrows were raised among the Middlesex faithful when Malan sat out last week’s game with Cardiff UCCE at Richmond – a perfect opportunity in the eyes of some to get some runs and play himself into form.
But Radford revealed the selection panel of Angus Fraser, Shaun Udal and himself had told Malan to take a time out from cricket in the hope he’d come back refreshed.
He added: "I think the feeling after the Chelmsford game was to give him five days off.
"Knowing Dawid he’s probably been training in Finchley every day hitting 1000s of balls, but sometimes that’s not the right thing to do.
"Sometimes it’s better to go fishing or to the cinema with the missus and get away from cricket altogether and come back fresh the next week.
"He’s a big analyser and if he gets a few low scores he is one who worries about where his next run is coming from.
"But you have to accept in cricket you are going to have failures and it’s the strong minds who win through.
"So for Dawid it wasn’t about going to Richmond or hitting thousands of balls, but instead chilling out for a bit."