As England’s brilliantly inconsistent Ashes series continued with a pulsating eight-wicket victory in the third test match, one figure humbly played a straight bat to the theory that his feisty first innings knock was the pivotal moment of the encounter. Moeen Ali remains an enigma; and yet he has cemented himself as an integral part of this England side. In which capacity he excels the most, however, is still yet to be confirmed.
His position as first choice spin bowler is still one that poses as many questions as problems it solves. Is he good enough to be his country’s premier tweaker? Does he turn the ball enough to be considered an international-standard spinner? Is there any other English spin bowler out there that could do a better job? Australia remain Ashes favourites, meaning England may need to answer these questions before the series concludes.
The stats suggest that Ali is still finding his feet at international level. In 25 innings he has taken 42 wickets at an average of 35 – not bad by any means, but not the kind of bowling you’d have sleepless nights full of worry about as a batsman. You’d have to argue that, at this moment in time, Moeen is simply an option to tie an end up and allow the quick bowlers the chance to get their breath back for a few overs.
As a consequence, Moeen’s continued selection as the frontline spinner is, by proxy, a statement by the England selectors that currently there is no alternative spin bowler out there on the county circuit worth picking. Judging by the form of the likes of Adil Rashid and Scott Borthwick in domestic cricket this season, they might just be right.
Willow Wielding Warrior
Instead it is Moeen’s batting that really catches the eye. The undoubted key moment in that third test came when Moeen marched to the crease to join an out-of sorts Jos Buttler with England perilously poised at 182-6.
Mitchell Johnson, moustache twitching, was fired up and bowling some serious heat. Taking wickets or hurting the Poms; it didn’t seem to matter much to the burly paceman. And yet Ali fronted up, and even when Buttler departed and Stuart Broad came to the party he was unwavering in his approach. Shortly after the lunch break, Moeen dispatched six balls of Johnson’s first two overs to the fence. The shackles were off, the moment was seized, and the momentum was with England. Here was where the match was won.
It showed courage too. In the second test Johnson had removed Ali with a brutal bouncer, and so it took guts for him to stand tall and play his strokes with almost carefree abandon. If anything suggests he merits a place higher in this England batting line up, it was that.
It was a surprise to many when, hunting around for a suitable replacement for Gary Ballance, the selectors plumped for Jonny Bairstow - with a modest test batting average of 26, over Moeen, who has been shuffled up and down the order but is still scoring at a respectable 30.76 in the most demanding form of the game. Would that average be higher if Ali batted in the top five, rather than trying to nurse the tail? Almost certainly.
In this Ashes series to date, he has now scored more runs than Alistair Cook, Adam Lyth, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler. With Jimmy Anderson ruled out of the fourth test through injury, it is likely that Stokes will be pressed into action more as a bowling option. As a consequence, he may be asked to swap places in the batting line-up with Moeen; switching from six to eight and vice versa.
But you do wonder how much higher Ali could go in this starting XI. One theory, which is rather crude, suggests that Adam Lyth will get the chop and England will thus be looking for a new opening batsman. Moeen could happily fill the void, and that would open the door for another spin bowler to be selected, or – as is more likely – another seamer to cover for the unenviable loss of Anderson.
A bold selection, sure, and not the kind that the English selectors are renowned for. But can Ali do a worse job than Lyth as a test match opening batsman, with all due respect? It’s about time he got a little more credit for his work with the blade.
Indian batsman Murali Vijay could miss the opening Test match of India's tour of Sri Lanka at Galle, as the 31-year-old is yet to recover from a hamstring discomfort, reports Indian Express.
The right-handed batsman will need to pass his fitness test before the first game, which gets underway on August 12.
Vijay holds a crucial role in Indian Test team, who has scored 2338 Test runs at 41.75 average.
India will play three Tests, beginning with a three-day warm-up game on August 6.
South Africa fast bowler Dale Steyn completed 400 wickets in Test cricket during the second Test against Bangladesh in Dhaka on Thursday.
The 32-year-old right-arm pacer becomes the second Protea’s bowler (after Shaun Pollock) ever to reach the elite club of 400 Test wickets, he achieved a milestone that only 12 other bowlers in the history of the game have reached.
Leg-spinner Amit Mishra has been included to India's 15-man Test squad for the three-match series against Sri Lanka next month.
Mishra, 32, who has not played a Test match since 2011 against England. He will replace Karn Sharma in the team that had travelled to Bangladesh last month.
The duo - Karn Sharma and Mohammed Shami were not considered for the series, which gets underway on Aug 12.
Colombo's Oval will host the second Test on August 20, while Sinhalese Sports Club Ground in Colombo, hosts the third and final Test on August 28.Squad:
Virat Kohli (capt), Varun Aaron, R Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan, Harbhajan Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra, Rohit Sharma, M Vijay, Umesh Yadav, KL Rahul
After a stunning victory in Cardiff - England have announced the same squad for the 2nd test in the five-match series, which gets underway at Lord's on Thursday.
The English selectors have kept faith with the 13-men who battered the Aussies by 169 runs with a day to spare in the opener in Cardiff.
That means - Middlesex's Steven Finn and Yorkshire’s Adil Rashid will miss out again.
Newly appointed coach Trevor Bayliss has started his campaign with a roaring victory after taking up his role last month.
Squad: Alastair Cook (captain), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Steven Finn, Adam Lyth, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Mark Wood.
We've got an unchanged squad for the second Investec #Ashes Test: http://t.co/4tqNG1jWhx pic.twitter.com/G1XZLvcJmp— England Cricket (@englandcricket) July 12, 2015