Improved Moeen leads England’s WT20 spin attack
Spin was always going to play a significant role in the ICC World Twenty20 2016, and England have the luxury of batting Moeen as low as No. 7 thanks to what he brings to the party with the ball
22 March 2016 17:17
"In Mumbai, it was trying to stop the run-rate, and you have to try and pick up wickets to do that. It’s difficult. It’s not been easy because me and Rashid have come up against guys who have been in and that’s harder to bowl at"
As an umpire, Dharmasena often takes his time to pronounce his verdict, letting the bowler and fielders appeal long and hard while weighs up the pros and cons of the decision at hand. As a bowler, though, it was a whippy action and a brisk delivery of his offbreaks that powered his success.
Apparently, there are a few more wickets in world cricket that can be attributed, at least in part, to Dharmasena. When England’s Moeen Ali had just begun to ply his wares in the world game, team-mate Ian Bell suggested that being quicker through the air would be the key to his success. Enter Dharmasena, who was a standing umpire in a Test Moeen was playing. Over the course of a discussion that extended the fellowship of offies, Dharmasena demonstrated a few technical adjustments that would allow Moeen to be quicker through the air without significantly changing his action or losing any of his flight. The wickets began to come in a flurry and a batsman who occasionally rolled his arm over became a genuine front-line offie.
Spin was always going to play a significant role in the ICC World Twenty20 2016, and England have the luxury of batting Moeen as low as No. 7 thanks to what he brings to the party with the ball. To start with, though, Moeen did not quite set the world alight, returning 1 for 38 and 2 for 34 in England’s first two matches, both played in Mumbai. “I’ve not enjoyed bowling in Mumbai so far, it’s not really been conducive to spin. Hopefully the pitches here will be better,” said Moeen after England finished a long practice session at the Feroze Shah Kotla in Delhi. “I think obviously the wicket is going to be a little bit different. I’ve not really seen it. I’ve heard it’s a little bit slower. So, I don’t expect runs coming as quick as Mumbai.”
Moeen, who has been in partnership with Rashid, the legspinner, explained how the two work together. “In Mumbai, it was trying to stop the run-rate, and you have to try and pick up wickets to do that. It’s difficult. It’s not been easy because me and Rashid have come up against guys who have been in and that’s harder to bowl at,” he said. “It’s hard to attack set batsmen, but when someone is new to the crease you can attack. It varies a little during the innings but, personally, I like to contain, and that’s how I get my wickets while Rash is more of an attacking wicket-taker.”
Moeen believed that his defensive skills had improved over the years. “It’s getting better. Chris Gayle obviously got hold of me, my last few balls. I could have done things a little differently, but that can happen in T20s. I feel I’ve gotten a lot better at defending.”
While he has not had a significant impact with the bat, Moeen has clearly not abandoned that aspect of his game. “I’m still an allrounder. I haven’t been batting that well but it’s just one of those things. I feel like I’ve contributed with the ball. It’s not easy, being someone who has batted at the top of the order last five-seven years and then moving to the lower order, it is different,” he said. “I’m not somebody who is going to go and hit sixes straightaway. I’m somebody is who is a strong, hitter of the ball, I’m more someone who tries to place the ball. I’m not too down. I’m practising hard.”
When England finally take a hard look at the pitch, there’s every chance Liam Dawson could be drafted in to add a slow left-arm component to the spin stocks. “He’s actually very good. He bowls very well in domestic, with the white ball. And he can bowl with the new ball and with the old ball,” said Moeen. “So, maybe the guys are talking about playing three spinners, I am not sure, but it looks like a good idea I feel.”
England being confident enough to field three spinners? Perhaps those rumours about this being New England have a ring of truth to them after all.
This article first appeared on WisdenIndia.com