LONDON - Without a chance injury, and a mad dash from the school where he was working to answer a late call-up, Dawid Malan might have been lost to English cricket.
Clive Radley, Middlesex legend and former coach of MCC Young Cricketers, on Thursday night told of how he only came across England’s century hero of the third Ashes Test by accident, while the batsman was on a working summer holiday from South Africa 11 years ago.
Malan, born in Roehampton, London, but largely brought up just outside Cape Town, had come over to coach at Oundle School in Northants in 2006 and play cricket for Teddington in the Middlesex League. He had fully intended returning to South Africa at the end of that English season and was already representing Boland province in their domestic competition.
"A friend at Teddington had told me there was a bloke they had there who was quite good and put me in touch with him," said Radley, 73, who retired last year after a long career coaching, having played for Middlesex and England.
"We had a squad of 16 or 18 but I told Dawid I would bear him in mind if needed. We had a three-day game against Leicestershire Seconds at Hinckley and had a late injury dropout on the first morning.
"I knew he was not that far away, so gave him a buzz and he jumped at the chance, got straight in his car and got there just in time.
"The first ball he faced he clipped it for four through square leg and I thought I was watching Graeme Pollock (the great South African left-hander).
"While he was still batting I got on the phone to Embers (John Emburey, then Middlesex coach) and told him that there was someone here he should keep his eye on."
Malan made 80, mostly with a borrowed bat after the only one he brought with him broke.
Radley then discovered that Malan had a British passport and the wheels propelling him towards the professional game began to spin quickly.
Less than two months after appearing on Radley’s radar he had signed for Middlesex and made his debut the same day, in front of 20,000 spectators in a T20 match against Surrey.
"I got a nice email from his brother Charl this morning, saying that if it wasn’t for what happened that summer he might still be at Oundle or in South Africa. There was an element of right time and right place," said Radley.
Malan’s boss at Middlesex, Angus Fraser, said: "Not only does he hit the ball very cleanly, he is also good at managing situations.
"When we were going for the Championship in 2016 against Yorkshire he came in at two for two in the second innings and made a hundred, so he knows how to make scores when it matters."