England all-rounder Moeen Ali was down and out during the Ashes last year Down Under. He suffered a cut in his right index finger, which had a devastating impact on his bowling abilities during the the first two Tests.
With hardly anything behind the deliveries, Moeen had a disastrous tour as he was carted around in five Tests for an astronomical average of 115. He was at the lowest point as a spinner. His finger injury, sadly, took away his biggest strength when he needed it the most.
“I have found bowling quite tough,” Moeen had said about his injury. “I need a bit more time for healing and it’s not been easy. At the moment, as soon as I start bowling, it starts to rip a little bit. As an off-spinner, the index finger is the one thing I really need to be 100 per cent.”
That seemed to be it for Moeen. He was dropped for the second Test against New Zealand and then the two-Test series against Pakistan at home in which the hosts had to fight to draw level after falling behind at Lord’s.
Time away from the team was just what Moeen needed with the all-rounder saying he should have been dropped from the Test team earlier.
Moeen is "the best off spinner England have by far..."— Jon Hotten (@theoldbatsman) June 13, 2018
Not my words, the words of Mr Kumar Sangakkara
Moeen was a late addition to the Royal Challengers Bangalore side in the IPL and he bowled well in the five games, picking up three wickets at an economy of 7.4.
That was the beginning of a turnaround of sorts. In the domestic One-Day Cup match for Worcestershire against Warwickshire, Moeen picked up three wickets and then smashed a century at the top of the order.
In the Scotland ODI on Sunday, Moeen was the best England bowler on display with 0-66 from 10 overs as the Scots piled on 371 for five. The off-spinner was it it again against the Aussies in the first ODI on Wednesday, dismantling the visitors’ top order by picking up 3-43.
His dismissal of Shaun Marsh was particularly impressive, rattling the stumps of the left hander after sneaking past his forward defence.
It was the sort of dismissal Moeen the Test bowler would have been proud of. And it was a timely reminder of his ability as a pure off-spinner.
England put their faith in the off-spin of Dom Bess against Pakistan. While the off-spinner picked up three wickets in the second match, he was negotiated easily in the first Test by Pakistan’s batsmen.
The England management will do back Moeen the Test bowler as offers a lot more with the ball and bat. Remember, this is the same Moeen that picked up 6-67 in the second innings of the 2014 Southampton Test against India. He was a class act then, as he is now.
England made hard work of a three-wicket one-day international win over a weakened Australia at The Oval.
Moeen Ali’s three-wicket burst reduced the tourists to a paltry 214 all out, before Eoin Morgan and Joe Root’s 115-run partnership put the hosts on course for victory.
Morgan hit 69, with Root departing for 50, as England rode out a late wobble to start the five-match series in triumph.
Morgan, Root, Jos Buttler and Ali all perished to weak shots to leave bowlers David Willey and Liam Plunkett to finish the job.
Australia’s first international action since March’s ball-tampering scandal that saw Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft suspended ended in a defeat that would have been more comprehensive, save for England’s errant batting.
Australia struggled for fluency throughout, feeling the injury absence of bowling trio Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood just as much as their three suspended batsmen.
Moeen put England in control, claiming his first two wickets for three runs in a match-turning eight balls. The Worcestershire off-spinner drew a false shot from Aaron Finch, clean bowled Shaun Marsh and then forced captain Tim Paine into a mistake to boot.
Glenn Maxwell hit 62 from 64 balls to dig Australia out of an even deeper hole, only to loft a facile catch to Jonny Bairstow off Plunkett.
England endured the worst possible start to their reply when Jason Roy fell to just the second delivery as he was late on his shot to a ball from Billy Stanlake that nipped back on him and was bowled without scoring.
Alex Hales and Jonny Bairstow then scored a flurry of boundaries before Michael Neser claimed his maiden one-day wicket when he trapped Hales on the back pad to have him lbw for five and leave England on 23 for two.
Bairstow continued to play freely as he went in search of a fourth consecutive one-day international century but he then pulled Kane Richardson straight to Travis Head at deep square leg and was caught for 28 to leave England 38 for three.
But Morgan and Root rebuilt the innings before Morgan and Buttler (9) fell to Andrew Tye as England leaked wickets throughout their facile run chase.
Root then edged Stanlake behind to depart on 50 when he ought to have steered England home. Ali could not finish the job either, holing out off Michael Neser’s bowling for 17, teeing up a tense finish with England seven down and still 18 short of victory.
But Willey sealed the win by thumping a huge straight six to end unbeaten on 35.
Australia will face their first international action since March’s shameful ball- doctoring incident when taking on England at The Oval on Wednesday.
Captain Steve Smith and deputy Warner received year-long bans for the ball-tampering that stunned Australian cricket in March’s third Test against South Africa.
Cameron Bancroft – who doctored a ball with sandpaper amid South Africa’s 322-run win in Cape Town – was also banned for nine months by Cricket Australia, with head coach Darren Lehmann resigning.
Morgan has vowed England will approach the Australia series with “service as usual” on a sledging front – but promised his side will not touch on March’s events.
Asked if England would use the ball-tampering in sledging, Morgan replied: “No. If you look at it in that, it probably could be ammunition. It will be service as usual.
“We play our cricket pretty hard, positively, aggressively, so we’ll continue to do that.
“I’m expecting a tough series. Every time we’ve played against Australia, the side we’ve come up against has played hard, tough cricket, so we’ll expect that as well.”
New head coach Justin Langer has pledged Australia will respect the line between banter and abuse in the wake of March’s ugly scenes on and off the field.
Asked if Australia can stick to those promises, Morgan replied: “To be honest I don’t know, I’ll only be able to tell you after tomorrow.
“We can speculate as much as we like, but the proof is in the actions.
“So we’ll only find out tomorrow. I think it’s going to be a good series.”
Confirming Jos Buttler will slot back into England’s line-up following Sunday’s shock six-run defeat to Scotland, Morgan said his side have to learn from that surprise reverse in Edinburgh.
Morgan added: “It’s no good losing the lesson and the game, you’ve got to take something from it.”