England’s long winter has reached its conclusion. It began with fifties for each of England’s Ashes virgins and it has ended the same way.
Mark Stoneman, James Vince and Dawid Malan have each bookended their Australasian adventure with half-centuries in Brisbane and Christchurch.
For Hampshire’s Vince, it began with 83, run out on that fateful day Down Under. The Ashes were lost there and then. It ended with 76 across the Tasman and in truth, there wasn’t a lot in between.
For Middlesex man Malan, there was the most extreme performance of the three. His 140 in Perth means that whatever happens, he has a Test ton to his name. He made three fifties in four innings in the T20Is as well. His one failure coming when he was fantastically run out by… David Warner! Though he contributed little in his first three innings in The Land of the Long White Cloud, he has at least rounded things of with a fifty.
For Surrey’s Stoneman, well, he did what everybody expected and what his track record, particularly when he was up at Durham, suggested he would do. He fought, he battled, he occasionally punched a couple of boundaries in quick succession but he didn’t go on. He didn’t register a century.
Without fifties in their final innings of the tours, Vince almost certainly and Stoneman possibly, would have bid farewell to their Test careers. Even another failure for Malan could have proven critical provided England’s desperation to have Ben Stokes bat at five. Malan need only look as far as Stoneman’s former county colleague and opening partner Keaton Jennings to know that a hundred doesn’t necessarily keep you in the team for long.
Of course England are currently advertising for new selectors, so whether or not any of said three batsmen ever play for England again is very much up in the air!