Moeen Ali may have taken 10 wickets in England’s first Test win over South Africa at Lord’s, but the best way for him to continue to be successful as a bowler is to think of himself as a batsman.
That was the somewhat convoluted position outlined by England coach Trevor Bayliss, who stressed neither he nor the all-rounder himself were thinking of the Worcestershire man as a frontline spinner.
Ali starred with both bat and ball as England launched Joe Root’s reign as captain with a commanding 211-run victory in the series opener against the Proteas, the win achieved with more than a day to spare.
During the match, Ali became the second-quickest England player after Tony Greig to complete the all-rounder’s double of 2,000 runs and 100 wickets in Test cricket.
His match figures of 10 for 112 allied to a first-innings 87 also helped him move above England team-mate Ben Stokes into fourth place in the International Cricket Council’s list of leading Test all-rounders.
And yet Bayliss believes it will help “complex character” Ali if left-armer Liam Dawson is regarded as England’s leading spinner should they retain the same side for Friday’s second Test of a four-match series at Nottingham’s Trent Bridge.
“We’ll stick with one spinner and one batter that bowls a little … and that’s important for Mo more than anything,” said Bayliss.
Of course, England won’t care a bit how they or Ali views himself if he keeps on taking wickets following his Test-best six for 53 at Lord’s on Sunday that was key to South Africa’s collapse to 119 all out in their second innings.
– ‘Pressure off’ –
“If he goes into the match as a batter and the second spinner, as we saw in this is probably more so for Mo’s benefit, to take a little bit of that pressure off him,” added Australian coach Bayliss.
Hampshire’s Dawson bagged a pair at Lord’s, his third nought in two career Tests after an unbeaten fifty on debut away to India last year.
After an uncertain start at Lord’s, his bowling became more of a threat on an increasingly helpful pitch and he finished with match figures of four for 101.
“Liam admitted himself that he was very nervous in the first innings, first Test match at home, first Test at Lord’s,” said Bayliss.
“But I thought he showed the character we know he has to come back and bowl better in the second innings — and bowl in a good partnership with Mo.”
The match was a triumph for Root, whose first-innings 190 put England in a strong position.
“Before this Test match, he was a little more on edge than I’ve seen him before,” said Bayliss.
“But he didn’t try to be something he’s not. He’s a pro-active, confident sort of a young bloke, and I thought that came across in the way he led the team.”
Former captain Alastair Cook made a valuable fifty in the second innings and Bayliss said he was enjoying his return to the ranks.
“He’s loving it! I was having a bit of a laugh about it, just watching him in the field.
“For someone in that stage of his career, it’s a good sign.”
Meanwhile Jonny Bairstow’s increasingly assured wicket-keeping, allied to his proven run-scoring ability was exemplified by his excellent legside catch to dismiss Heino Kuhn on Sunday.
“That first catch was probably the best he’s taken since I’ve been here in the last three summers,” said Bayliss. “So that will give him a lot of confidence.”