Moeen Ali makes a promising statement for England

Moeen Ali's first century away from home in Rajkot on Thursday was confirmation of his keenness to prove his worth as an an all-rounder for England.

Moeen Ali participated in partnerships of 179 and 62 with Joe Root and Ben Stokes, respectively.   -  Reuters

Moeen Ali is sort of a floater when it comes to batting for England. Although he has taken 88 wickets bowling off- breaks at almost 40 runs apiece in 32 Test matches, the Birmingham-born has given sufficient hints of developing into an all-rounder by competing as a batsman and scoring runs in the lower order.

His centuries against Sri Lanka (108 not out at Leeds in 2014 and 155 not out at Chester-le-Street this year) and Pakistan (108 at The Oval this year) are a reflection of his keenness to wield the willow and prove his worth in the team.

With England in search of opening partners after the retirement of Andrew Strauss, Ali, who bats left handed, has opened the innings with Alastair Cook in six innings. But it’s at No. 5, 6, and 7 that he has runs to show for; 231, 615 and 449. He has also batted at No. 8 three times.

It was not a strange decision on the part of the England team management to mark him down as the No. 5 batsman once they shuffled the batting order. It left out Gary Balance because of his inability to cope with spinners against Bangladesh. The collapse in the second innings of the Mirpur Test has a lot to do with Ali’s promotion, and how well he has responded, teaming with Joe Root in that important 179-run stand for the fourth wicket and then putting on 62 for the fifth with Ben Stokes.

The admirable effort has allowed England to defy and dictate terms to the Indian bowling that did not have the wherewithal to outsmart Root, Ali and Stokes.

Steady hand

Joining Root at the fall of Ben Duckett’s wicket (at the stroke of lunch on Day One), immediately after lunch, Ali showed a fixity of purpose by farming the strike in order to allow Root take most of the strike. The left hander was steady, but cut loose when opportunities came by. He just struck nine boundary shots in his unbeaten 99 on the first day, but in a rare show of belligerence punished fast bowler Umesh Yadav, who was operating with the second new ball on Thursday morning. He struck three fours in a row.

After ducking to a bouncer from Mohammad Shami, Ali put the next ball away to short backward point, responded to a call from Stokes and ran a quick single to complete his fourth century – the first three-figure knock away from home.

He seemed to be in such a confident mood that his dismissal seemed against the run of play. He was bowled not offering a shot to a ball that nipped back to hit the off stump.

Ali not only batted for four and half hours, but also sized up the Indian spinners on a generally good batting strip, and when he fell, he had given England hopes of making the most in this opening Test.