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Sunday 21 September 2014

Moeen puts India in a spin as England level series

Scyld Berry

Published 01/08/2014 | 02:30

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England's Moeen Ali (c) celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of India's Mohammed Shami claiming his fifth wicket during day five of the Third Investec Test match
England's Moeen Ali (c) celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of India's Mohammed Shami claiming his fifth wicket during day five of the Third Investec Test match

Serenity. That is the quality that England introduced to their team when they took a punt on a cricketer from an unfashionable background – not just a public park in Birmingham but a park without a proper pitch – and an unfashionable county, Worcestershire.

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This quality was manifest first in Moeen Ali's fielding. He was given the Jonathan Trott role of fielding anywhere except close to the wicket, even at long leg at both ends. Another newcomer might have felt out of place, even excluded, but he did not appear to mind. The serenity was then shown in his batting at Headingley. Has anyone scored such a serene century for England, in only his second Test, as Moeen did on the last day?

But serenity was also required in his spin bowling in India's second innings at the Ageas Bowl. The pressure on a spinner on a turning pitch in the fourth innings is like that on an opening bowler on a green top after his captain wins the toss and sends in the opposition – and England's four-man seam attack collectively buckled under that pressure on the first morning of the second Test against India at Lord's.

It helped that Moeen at the Ageas Bowl had done the first half of his spinner's job in India's first innings. He had held the line and given Alastair Cook some control by restricting India to little more than three runs an over. He also picked up a couple of top wickets – Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma – while the seamers rested.

Still, the expectation was great upon Moeen when he took the ball for the 13th over of India's second innings. He had to perform the second half of his spinning job: take a five-for in conditions favourable to him.

Cook after the game rightly said that his spinner had come on "in leaps and bounds". So he has. Moeen was on nice and early and he proceeded to do the job with an excellent line.

His prime asset, apart from overall accuracy, was that he beat both sides of the bat. By turning the ball enough initially to beat the inside edge, he had the Indians playing for turn, and then beat or nicked their outside edge: hence the first and highly distinguished wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara, with the help of Chris Jordan.

Graeme Swann would surely have bowled better than Moeen did to India's left-handers, Shikhar Dhawan and Ravi Jadeja, sliding the ball into their pads. But would he have bowled better, on the day, against India's right-handers? There is no guarantee.

Moeen's was one of several stellar performances amid the excellent teamwork in England's open-air and out-of-town production of That's More Like It. (© Daily Telegraph)

Irish Independent

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