London: England’s Moeen Ali said he would have dropped himself earlier this season after his hundred left the team well-placed in the fourth Test against Pakistan.
Thursday’s first day at The Oval saw Ali walk out to bat with England struggling at 110 for five after captain Alastair Cook had won the toss.
But Ali’s 108 helped England to a total of 328 before he was last man out.
There was still time before stumps for England, 2-1 up in the four-match series, to remove Sami Aslam, lbw to Stuart Broad and leave Pakistan in trouble at three for one come the close.
Ali was named man-of-the-match in the third Test at Edgbaston last week after his two fifties helped set up a 141-run win.
But although he made his name in county cricket as a top-order batsman, Ali has found himself deployed by England primarily as their lone specialist spinner.
It is not a role he has always enjoyed.
Ali took just two wickets during Pakistan’s 75-run win in the first Test at Lord’s.
That same match also saw the 29-year-old Worcestershire all-rounder give his wicket away in England’s second innings when he was bowled by leg-spinner Yasir Shah after recklessly charging down the pitch.
Yet Cook and the England management kept faith with off-spinner Ali.
“I have to thank the selectors and captain Alastair Cook, because I probably wouldn’t have picked myself at that stage,” Ali told reporters after stumps.
“It was fifty-fifty but they stuck with me.
“At Lord’s I wasn’t on it and I was really embarrassed. That is when I decided to bat properly again, and I have worked on my defence with batting coach Mark Ramprakash.
“I was sick and tired of not scoring many runs for England; it was a little bit embarrassing.”
Thursday’s innings was the third of Ali’s Test centuries and the second of his season after his 155 not out against Sri Lanka at Chester-le-Street in May.
“I think this was the best of my three Test hundreds. It will mean even more if we can go on and win the match and the series,” said left-handed batsman Ali.
“I feel I have made an impact with the bat and I hope I can do the same with the ball,” added Ali, who earlier in the series worked with Saqlain Mushtaq after the former Pakistan off-spinner was brought in by England as a temporary coaching consultant.
For Pakistan, this was yet another day where a sloppy fielding display proved costly.
Ali should have been out for nine but Azhar Ali dropped a routine slip catch.
Meanwhile Jonny Bairstow, who eventually made 55, was caught off a Wahab Riaz no-ball — one of seven in the innings from the recalled left-arm quick — on 13.
“Of course we missed opportunities and good teams do not make mistakes like dropping catches,” said Pakistan bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed.
“But there are four days to go and hopefully we can bat well in our first innings,” the former Pakistan leg-spinner added.