The Middlesex batsman, the fourth new England cap during these three matches, was sensational in his first international, hitting 78 from 44 balls to help the hosts to a total of 181 for eight.
Malan’s knock was the highest score by an England T20 debutant. It ultimately proved the difference as South Africa, who had levelled the series with a three-run win in Taunton on Friday, fell 20 runs short of their target on 162 for seven.
Malan, 29, was born in Roehampton but raised near Cape Town and it was clear he was instantly at home at this level when he smashed just the second ball he faced, from Chris Morris, for six.
He struck 13 more boundaries as he moved close to what would have been his third T20 century.
But his dismissal in the 14th over, hitting spinner Imran Tahir to long on, slowed England’s progress significantly as they made just 54 from the final 39 deliveries of the innings.
Among the five wickets to fall after Malan departed was Liam Livingstone, who had started his international career with a patchy innings of 16 in Taunton that went a long way to costing England the match.
Livingstone, who also dropped a catch on debut, was afforded a further opportunity here after a prolific winter with England Lions.
But he was out for a golden duck attempting to ramp the excellent Dane Paterson, the pick of South Africa bowlers with four for 32.
The decision to give Livingstone another chance was the reason given by England as to why they made the bizarre call to rest captain Eoin Morgan with the series was on the line.
With England’s next white-ball match not until September 16 – 83 days after this contest – the idea of resting Morgan, for whom Jos Buttler stood in to lead the side, was nonsensical.
If they really were tied to giving Livingstone another go then the fans who paid up to £45 to attend this match would be entitled to argue that anybody other than the captain should have been rested instead.
As it was Morgan defended the decision, saying: “We recognise the big opportunity to have a look at younger players. Given the rotation system we have had in the past, it’s important I miss out.
“I love playing international cricket, but unfortunately that is the case today. It’s tough, but it’s a call you have to make looking to the long-term.”
Malan’s performance certainly bodes well for the future. His solid technique and clean hitting make him a player who could offer England real top-order competition in white-ball cricket.
Perhaps his best shot on debut was the brutal one that sent Morne Morkel out of the ground – and into the neighbouring River Taff – and moved him onto 47.
But Malan’s departure stymied England’s progress, with only Buttler, who made 31 from 22 balls, scoring with any fluency in the final six overs.
Alex Hales, who shared a 105-run stand with Malan, was the one other batsman to post a significant score, the opener making 36 from 28 balls.
England’s total, though, was decent on a pitch that was slowing up.
Tom Curran, who took three wickets on debut in Taunton, ensured South Africa’s chase was hampered from the very start.
The Surrey fast bowler struck with his sixth delivery, Reeza Hendricks hitting him straight to mid-off in the second over.
Morris, pulling Chris Jordan to deep square leg after surprisingly being sent in at No3, and JJ Smuts, Malan taking the catch off Liam Plunkett at fine leg, both departed as South Africa slipped to 59 for three in the tenth over.
Some brutal hitting from captain AB De Villiers threatened to revive his team’s hopes.
De Villiers took a particular liking to Mason Crane, whose own debut had come in the series opener in Southampton.
But the young leg-spinner persevered and, after five deliveries that had gone for 18, he tossed up the final ball of the 11th over and was rewarded with his first international wicket as De Villiers found Hales on the midwicket boundary.
South Africa were in real trouble on 86 for five in the next over when David Miller slashed Jordan behind.
The contest looked all but over when Farhaan Behardien holed out to Jordan in the 14th over, the sixth wicket falling with South Africa needing 91 from the final 38 balls.
And so it proved despite Mangaliso Moshele’s entertaining 36 during a 54-run stand with Andile Phehlukwayo that was finally ended when the former was caught in the deep off Curran in the penultimate over of the match.
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