T20 World Cup 2021: England cracks the Moeen conundrum, thanks to CSK

T20 World Cup: Thanks to Chennai Super Kings, England seems to have finally stumbled upon a winning formula to best use Moeen Ali.

Asset: Moeen Ali’s bowling spells in the Powerplay have aided England at the T20 World Cup.   -  Getty Images

It was Day Four of the second Test between India and England in Chennai. England was 116 for seven and 365 runs behind. It had lost four wickets already that morning when Moeen Ali walked out to bat.

Off just the sixth ball he faced, Moeen stepped down the pitch and lofted Kuldeep Yadav for six over long-on. Three balls later, he cut him for four. Next over, he clobbered Axar Patel for three consecutive sixes down the ground. Then, he got stuck into R. Ashwin, carving him for four over mid-off before slamming him for a six over midwicket. There was one more four, through extra-cover, before he was stumped, charging down the pitch.

Moeen had scored 43 off 18 balls at a strike rate of 238.88. With the ball, Moeen dismissed Virat Kohli twice, two of eight wickets in the match for the all-rounder who returned home after the second Test.

Moeen couldn't prevent India from winning the Test by 317 runs and levelling the series. But his pyrotechnic batting display caught the eye of Chennai Super Kings (CSK), which signed him for ₹7 crore at the IPL auction two days later. The price tag was more than four times the sum that Royal Challengers Bangalore (₹1.7 crore) paid for Moeen in 2018.

Now of late, even with all the runs, and wickets, there has been a lingering feeling that England has struggled to get the best out of Moeen. He has been lurching between the roles of a frontline spinner to the opening batter and almost everything in between, never being allowed to settle for long in one adequate role.

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At CSK, Moeen found that stability and immediately revelled in it. Thanks to extraordinary batting depth, CSK sent Moeen at No. 3 11 times in IPL 2021 and got returns of 278 runs at a strike rate of 136.94. Moeen batted at No. 4 only thrice and just once at No. 6. With the ball, Moeen picked six wickets in 15 matches at an economy rate of 6.35.

'Grounded and humble team'

On November 15, after becoming the first Englishman to win the Indian Premier League, Moeen had this to say about his new franchise: “My first year, and it has been amazing. There are not many changes in the side. I could have been dropped a couple of games ago. I feel like it’s such a grounded and humble team and great to be a part of.” The support and consistency CSK showed to Moeen were outstanding, and it reaped the benefits.

Moeen has now carried on his IPL form in the ongoing ICC Twenty20 World Cup, where he has set up the game for England with the ball in the Powerplay. Against the defending champion West Indies in Dubai, Moeen got the new ball and bowled his four overs for 17 runs and two wickets. He played a similar role against Bangladesh in Abu Dhabi, with figures of — all inside the first six — 3-0-18-2. And to think that Moeen did not get a single game when a full-strength England squad visited India in March for a five-match T20I series.

England seemed to have finally stumbled upon a winning formula to best use Moeen; something that was hiding in plain sight all this while. And it perhaps has CSK and that hot and humid morning in Chennai to thank for it.

In this episode of Matchpoint Paradox, our correspondents Ayan Acharya and Amol Karhadkar review the latest from the T20 World Cup and other major updates from the world of cricket this past week.

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