Moeen Ali: 5 highlights from an enterprising career
Back in the day when England were not the dynamite white ball side they are now, when they filled their batting line-up with reliable Test batsmen, slotted bits and pieces all-rounders and employed the "specialist" finger-spin of the likes of Danny Briggs and James Tredwell, little did they know that the introduction of one sturdy fellow will turn their fates around.
Moeen Ali, brought in to revolutionize an obsolete English side, was not effective right away with the team management themselves not too sure what to do with him, they would make him bat right at the top of the order and would field him as the standalone spinner in the squad, the responsibilities Moeen simply was not ready for. But post the debacle of 2015, Moeen, the survivor of the mass axings found a niche for himself and began to impact the performances of his side in subtle but mighty effective ways.
Four years on from his debut in 2014, Ali, the once shy and rather sheepish Birmingham lad, is now one of the more expressive cricketers on the field and remains the main reason behind England's resurgence in the one-dayers and their much-awaited balance in the test side.
On his 31st birthday, we look at the five best moments from the all-rounder's illustrious career.
#5 119(87) vs Sri Lanka in Colombo, 2014
In his first five ODIs, Ali had passed 40 thrice but had never gone beyond 67, thus earning some harsh criticism from the English media for being one of the typical ineffective ODI cricketers who manage to score just enough to retain their places in the side. A relatively slow starter, he was reinstated into his initial role of opener in absence of an injured Alex Hales, he surprised everyone with a firecracker of an innings.
In the series opener, England were chasing a daunting Sri Lankan total of 317. On an increasingly wearing pitch where the ball was gripping on the surface and stroke-play was not easy, Moeen raced to fifty off just 25 balls, the then second fastest by an Englishman. Wickets tumbled around him but he was undeterred and continued to play solely in the pursuit of the required run rate, with the notable part being that never did he play low percentage strokes.
With the spin trio of Ajantha Mendis, Tilakratne Dilshan and Rangana Herath all testing him in uncountable ways, he decided to take the aerial route and reached 100 off just 72 balls. Though he got with his team 114 runs short, keep in mind that he had scored 59.5% of the runs at a rate 161% time of his team's, laced with 11 fours and 5 sixes.
England fell 25 runs short in the end but this innings was the making of Moeen Ali.