Moeen Ali must accept his role as England's spin king

Nick Hoult
The Telegraph
It's time for Moeen Ali to step up to his status as England's number one spinner - AP
It's time for Moeen Ali to step up to his status as England's number one spinner - AP

Perhaps the most important player for England this week only bowled seven overs in each innings. Adil Rashid was a passenger but he is the comfort blanket Moeen Ali needs to bring the best out of his bowling.

Quite why that is the case is beyond everyone within the England set up, even someone with the intellect of national selector Ed Smith. But Moeen likes to be the second spinner, operating in the background and surprising everyone when he delivers.

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But the thing is, it does not surprise people when he bowls well because he is the best spinner in England. He now has to use this performance to find some self belief in his bowling because after 51 Tests and at the age of 31 the second phase of his career is just starting. He has a great chance to make part two, far better than part one, which contained highs but many lows. 

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Part-time spinners do not take nine for 134 against fine players of spin on a pitch that was sub-continental in its style. He outbowled Ravi Ashwin this week, although he was not fully fit, and Virat Kohli described him as "relentless", while Root said it was his best performance in an "England shirt."

He found the rough much better than Ashwin and his battle with Kohli was mesmerising. He deserved to get him out lbw on nine only for the decision review system, undoubtedly the best technology adjudication method in sport, to let him down. 

<span>Virat Kohli was well beaten by Moeen's spin</span> <span>Credit: AP </span>
Virat Kohli was well beaten by Moeen's spin Credit: AP

Moeen bowled India out in the first innings when they were looking comfortable at 142 for two and his spell to Kohli on Sunday was an expert display of patience and skill as he consistently hit the tough area in the rough created by the footsteps of Ishant Sharma and Sam Curran bowling from the other end. It was redemption for Moeen. Not for his poor Ashes tour, but to take a little revenge on India who broke him so easily on England’s last tour.

"India are fantastic players of spin but probably for the first time in my international career I was patient and I knew there was something in the wicket. You have just got to play the moment and I knew what I needed to do," he said.

Moeen will bat at three again at the Oval this week, continuing the role he took as an emergency stand in for Root in the second innings at the Ageas Bowl. 

<span>England will give Moeen another try at three</span> <span>Credit: Getty images </span>
England will give Moeen another try at three Credit: Getty images

Moeen averages 52 at first drop for Worcestershire and even though he is not a long term option in that position for England, they have chopped and changed personnel in the batting department too much already this summer to tinker again for the final Test, especially when their next engagement is a tour to Sri Lanka. 

Moeen is a good player of spin and No 3 will suit him this winter although England’s belief that the pitches in the West Indies after Christmas will be the normal slow surfaces they are used to might be misplaced. The pitch in Antigua, the venue for the second Test, was rock hard and fast when West Indies played Bangladesh recently. 

But for now Moeen stays at three and, ever the team man, he is happy to do it. "Rooty just came over and said to me 'do you want to bat at three or seven?' I was pleased to bat three, I said Rooty is best at four. It didn't work for me but he got some runs,” he said. “I'd love to have another go at some stage. I don't know if I will but I feel really good with the bat. The Indian seamers bowled really well but we'll see what happens in the future."

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