Prior to the third match of the current Test series against India, England’s Ian Bell took bowler Moeen Ali aside to tell him to be more consistent with his deliveries and pace rather than mixing up his style. Easier said than done, usually.
Ali has taken the advice to heart as he has already recorded a total of 19 wickets (in four Tests) against India.
There was, however, an external force that led to Ali’s remarkable performance thus far. Sri Lanka’s Kumar Dharmasena.
According to Ali, Dharmasena – an off-spinner – suggested Ali grab his left pocket with his non-bowling hand to reach the ideal speed at the point of delivery.
“As soon as I bowled one ball I knew it would work,” Ali said. “That, for some reason, allows me to bowl quicker and straighter without being flat. I knew that was how I needed to bowl from then on. It’s completely different from county cricket. I bowled there in the eye line, as people say, and I didn’t have consistency. As soon as I bowled that way for England I got hammered, especially by India and Sri Lanka because they use their feet so well. “Even slightly good balls disappear. They’re so good at it. So I had to bowl quicker and straighter and to my field a bit more. So far it’s been all right, since Lord’s.”
Ali’s 19 wickets in the series have also yielded a remarkable average of 22.94 that included historic performances at the Ageas Bowl and Old Trafford.
He does, however, have the advantage of surprise on his side. India’s roster has little experience facing Ali at this level of the sport, naturally leading to a slightly carefree attitude towards the newcomer.
“They (Indian batsmen) felt I was an easy target, a guy they could get easy runs from, which has helped me quite a bit,” Ali said. “If they attack me, now I’m bowling well, I’ve got a chance.”