Moeen Ali bringing a bright spark to England’s one-day gloom ahead of World Cup

Moeen Ali
Moeen Ali

On the day that Alastair Cook was confirmed as England’s captain for the 50-over World Cup in Australia next year, it is his opening partner, Moeen Ali, who has provided some glimmer of hope in the one-day gloom that has enveloped the team as of late.

As England prepare for the fourth one-day international versus Sri Lanka in Columbo without Cook, who is suspended due to his team’s over rate in the last match, there will be more focus on the expected opening combination of Ali and Alex Hales.

Hales’ attacking prowess has always been demonstrated but Ali’s recent form in the shorter format may have come as a surprise to those, like myself, who saw him play with composure and grace during his brief Test career in the summer.

In the ODI series so far, Ali’s numbers with the bat make for impressive reading. He has racked up 179 runs at an average of 59, including thirteen fours and ten sixes. That is compared with his Test career, where he has hit 41 fours (not a surprising number considering his strokeplay qualities) and only one six.

What the Worcestershire man has shown is an adaptability from five-day to one-day cricket effortlessly, changing his mindset to a more attacking play, especially setting the tempo at the start of his team’s innings.

He has outshone his skipper at times, leading from the front like some say, Cook should be doing. Every cricketer is different of course, but Ali’s brilliant start shows he is aware enough to realise his game needs to be set at different levels in each format.

Despite Hales running out Ali needlessly in the last match, in which England won by 5 wickets, both men have an opportunity to show what can be done if they were – although highly unlikely due to the English Cricket Board’s unwavering support for Cook – batting more permanently.

Cook’s stubbornness means he is unlikely to lose face and bat lower down the order so it seems a Hales/Ali opening batting partnership is likely to be a brief interlude before the captain returns to regain his place.

Ali’s strokeplay but more, his forays over the boundary ropes whilst playing his range of sixes, has been exciting to watch. What role the coaching staff have had to play (especially the new England batting coach Mark Ramprakash) is difficult to say but it is a measure of the man’s desire to play for his country that he has adapted so adroitly.

He has shown in the summer with the ball, when he was not reaching the standards of Test cricket, that he sought advice from fellow teammate Ian Bell in identifying what pace and rhythm to which he should be bowling. That advice worked a treat and his influence in the Test series versus India cannot be denied.

His soft-spoken, polite nature has won him a small, passionate following to which he deals with maturity and a calmness. His bowling may not yet have shined as much, but his batting is having a much-needed impact.

In naming their preliminary World Cup squad, which includes in-form Yorkshire all-rounder Adil Rashid, England could take the bowling responsibilities off Ali’s shoulder by playing the former. Rashid is no mug with the bat as his last domestic season has showed and it could provide another attacking bowling option.

It seems unlikely that will happen, but it gives Cook, if he is willing to be imaginative with his line-up, to make a drastic and bold change.

Ali’s spell into the ODI team is a refreshing boost in preparation for a tournament, that England – especially under Cook’s determined but yet unfanciful ODI leadership – seem far from winning.

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