Moeen Ali won’t tie up an end

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There are two types of spin bowlers:

The first kind is the attacking kind. They bat at number 11, but with the ball in their hand, they can take wickets. Early in their career, they can be a bit hit and miss, going for a few boundaries, but you try and allow for that because if they become more consistent, they’re invaluable.

The second kind is the batsman-who-bowls-spin. You’ll see them all the time in one-day cricket. They seem to have confused the batsman’s legs with the stumps and spear everything in this direction. The captain’s never scared of bringing them on because nothing bad can ever happen.

What England want

England haven’t been able to find an attacking spinner, so they’ve had to settle for a batsman-who-bowls-spin. Except they haven’t, because Moeen Ali’s actually no such thing.

Moeen Ali is a young spinner, a developing spinner, but he’s not a batsman-who-bowls-spin according to the definition above. People assume that England have selected someone to block up one end so that the seamers can take turns attacking from the other, but from what we’ve seen this isn’t the way Moeen approaches his bowling.

Gauging worth

The poor lad’s being assessed by the wrong criteria. It’s often said of Graeme Swann that he was two bowlers in one – he could keep it tight and he could also attack. Now everyone’s wailing because we can’t even find someone to do the first of those things.

But they’re not sequential. You don’t go from trying to concede no more than two runs an over to taking eight wickets in an innings. If anything, the first approach will hamper your efforts at the second.

Moeen Ali bowls a decent number of four balls. If you’re Paul Harris, that’s criminal, but Moeen also bowls more potentially wicket-taking deliveries than Harris did. If he’s aspiring to be Paul Harris, he needs to erase both these extremes. Let’s take a vote on whether that’s the best course of action…


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  1. Moen is an interesting spinner. He is not a big spinner, Normally such kind of bowlers attack the leg-stump as you say, but Moen is very consistent in attacking the off-stump instead.

    Classical line of attack without the classical spin

  2. But the argument that he is not a specialist spinner is so easy to say. That’s why all the commentators keep saying it. It would be far too complex for them to explore the issue as well as you have done here.

    Either that, or they’re wrong. One of the two.

  3. Moeen in his first 4 2/3 tests, against what are supposedly the world’s two best batting lineups versus spin, has 14 wickets at 38.9. I’ll take that! He’s not spinning the ball a lot, but he’s spinning it more than India’s lead spinner.

    I think he ought to keep doing what he is doing, and if he’s got to work on anything, it’s strictly batting-related: not crapping himself against the short ball.

  4. Well done KC on not sounding like certain sections of the media who today are saying: “Can everyone stop calling Moeen a part-time spinner? I know him personally and he’s a proper bowler. Look, he’s taking wickets. I knew he would do that, because I know him personally.”

    It’s the Nick Knight disease. One of many Nick Knight diseases. The other evening he interviewed Adil Rashid, both of them sitting awkwardly, legs-splayed, on the Old Trafford outfield. Later, Charles Colvile raised the issue of Rahid’s England prospects. Knight said something like: “Yeah, I asked him that when I interviewed him. Can’t remember his answer.”

  5. My own cynical view is Moeen is successful as a bowler for exactly the same reasons Hayden was successful as a batsman.

    1. Because he’s a hulking bear of a man with forearms like tree trunks and a bully-boy attitude?

    2. haydos certainly is known to practise executing his considerable skillsets in verbal jargonisation, business-based drivelishness and filibusterificationitude, wherever and whenever possible

      (is anyone so detested in world cricket? he is the ty cobb of whites)

  6. Future exhibition matches: Bert’s Indifferents vs. Kallis’ Indifferents vs. MCC (feat. Tony Iommi disguised as Sachin Tendulkar in a way which everybody finds unconvincing. 100 riffs?!).

  7. Funny how when England start treating him like a proper spinner, he starts bowling like one.

    I’m not sure he is going to be the saviour of spin bowling, but his batting makes him the best of the bunch. Apart from Swann and extremely sporadically Tufnell and Panesar (who would both have the odd amazing Test or two followed by a few Tests of utter toilet), thats what England have had to make do with for about 35 years. Emburey, Edmonds, Croft, Giles – they were hardly running through teams on a regular basis, and I fancy Moeen is a better bat than all of them.

    Mind you, because of that England need to ignore batting prowess and pick the best 4 seamers available at all times. I’m not sure one way or the other whether they are at the moment, Jordan feels a bit of a “he does everything quite well” pick but I don’t really know if there is anyone significantly better at bowling than him right now. He may be younger and therefore have a “higher ceiling” (copyright ECB), but I’m not convinced he is an upgrade on Bresnan.

    Woakes-Broad-Plunkett-Anderson feels like the best combination at the moment, with hopefully Finn breathing down their neck soon. Stokes should be targetting a top 6 slot more than a bottom 4 one I think.

    1. Jordan does seem to get a lot of wickets in county cricket. Suspect we haven’t really seen the best of him in Tests.

    2. Well that’s clearly true, but it doesn’t mean he isn’t still one of the best bowlers available. No-one’s been significantly outdoing him over the last year or so.

    3. Nice to see you having a little tet-a-tet over this with legsidelizzy on Twitter. Genuinely the touchiest person on social network.

    4. She might just be unfamiliar with puns as bad as the one we made. We’re just upset that anyone might think we are somehow against Moeen Ali.

  8. I have really warmed to Moeen as a player. But it’s his batting that I find most compelling. He’s just so elegant and appears to have so much time. He should retain his place in the top six regardless of his bowling. The middle order of Ballance, Bell, Root, Ali has enough threat and stability to last some time, and in fact gives me some cause for optimism.

    1. yeah we actually have a batting spinner now don’t we? i thought the whole point about swann’s being two bowlers in one was precisely the fact that it’s exceptional in his case and thus cannot just be replaced

      problem against the short ball can surely be cured by facing enough of the buggers..?

    2. People do seem to acknowledge that they’re unlikely to find someone to do both jobs. We were highlighting the assumption that ‘keeping it tight’ would be the first and easier role to fill.

    3. I am suddenly very glad that I gave him the all-rounder slot in my team, runs be damned.

  9. What you have in Moeen Ali already is the equivalent of what NZ got out if Vettori by the end of his career. If his bowling picks up you have a guy at least as good as Shakib. Combine him with Ben Stokes and your team selection gets interesting.

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