The Oval: A bad back in the nets when he was 14 may have been the moment that defined Moeen Ali’s career. Early in his days in the Warwickshire youth set-up he bowled seam-up, but an injury prompted him to tell Steve Perryman, the then bowling coach at Edgbaston, that he was able to send down a few spinners.
Two balls was all it took before Perryman told Moeen, “Right, you are a spinner from now.”
Fast forward to August 2014 and he sits on the verge of having the most successful series by an England spinner against India. Currently he has 19 wickets at 22.94 following two match-winning spells at the Ageas Bowl and Old Trafford, giving England a 2-1 lead in the Investec Test series. Even if you disregard the endless suggestions that he was no more than a “part-time” spinner to begin with, it is a remarkable story.
“I don’t know how I’m getting these wickets but I’m happy to,” he said with a laugh, reflecting on a few weeks which have strengthened what had already been a developing cult status within English cricket.
MS Dhoni has insisted India need to attack Moeen, but there is more than a suggestion that the visitors have not adjusted their gameplans in line with Moeen’s improvement. At Old Trafford their attitude to him was brazen.
“They felt I was an easy target, a guy they could get easy runs from, which has helped me quite a bit,” Moeen said. “If they attack me, now I’m bowling well, I’ve got a chance. But they’re very good players of spin. I don’t know how I’m getting these wickets but I’m happy to! I feel like I’m on top and I feel I can get players out.”
He has also largely shelved the doosra for now after realising he can work over batsmen with the conventional offspinner, allied to drift and, what Shane Warne likes to term, natural variation. Agencies