Sports, Cricket

Moeen Ali key to England’s success

Published : 09 Nov 2021 07:13 PM | Updated : 10 Nov 2021 11:06 AM

Moeen Ali has achieved just about everything he could hope for in an England shirt, but he may come to look back at this week as the most important of his international career.

The overriding impression over the last month has been that Moeen's confidence - a vital intangible for a player whose form has fluctuated more than the price of a cryptocurrency - has been restored, with the results borne out in his performances in this World Cup to date. He was England's tightest bowler in the Super 12s despite bowling the bulk of his overs in the powerplay, and was promoted to No. 3 to target the short boundary during their chase against South Africa on Saturday; it defies belief that he sat on the bench in ten consecutive T20Is between last November and this June.

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It would be easy to attribute Moeen's self-belief to his retirement from Test cricket. The daunting prospect of a full winter on the road if he had been involved in this winter's Ashes has been replaced by two months back home with his young family before England's next white-ball engagement, a five-match T20I series in Barbados in January; so that is unlikely to have hurt his frame of mind in this World Cup.

But perhaps the more pertinent factor is that Moeen feels valued again, after spending far too long playing a bit-part role in England's T20 side. After he was left out of the second T20I against Sri Lanka this summer, he had played only 12 of their last 41 games in the format. In those rare appearances, he faced more than a dozen balls only twice and bowled an average of 10.7 balls per game.

With the bat, he came in at No. 3 - his preferred spot in domestic and franchise cricket - for the first time in six years against South Africa on Saturday night, after Jos Buttler sent a message back to the dugout saying that he was the man for the job. Sixes off Tabraiz Shamsi and Aiden Markram showcased his unparalleled ability to take down spinners, and with favourable match-ups against his former Worcestershire team-mates Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi ahead in Wednesday's semi-final, it is a role he could fill again.

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