1st Test, Day Two, Cardiff.
Moeen Ali justified the England selector’s decision to play him over Adil Rashid with an excellent all-round performance, as England gained the upper hand in the first Ashes test in Cardiff.
After scoring 77 with the bat, Ali also took two crucial wickets as visitors Australia ended the second day on 264-5. They are 166 runs behind England, who were dismissed for 430 all out earlier in the day.
Ali added 51 runs to his overnight total as he raced out the blocks in the early morning sunshine in the Welsh capital.
He then claimed the wickets of Australia danger man Steve Smith and captain Michael Clarke to leave England in a commanding position.
The decision to stick with Ali over Rashid was the toughest the selector’s faced ahead of this test match, but they will now feel more than overjoyed with their decision.
Ali looked in top form, and his wickets today also mean that he now boasts a better wicket per ball average (53) than past spinners Graeme Swann (60), Monty Panesar (75) and Phil Tufnell (91).
After being hit for three boundaries in four balls, the spinner confidently decided to again invite Smith on with a bowl, which read ‘come and attack me’. Smith though could only edge the ball, which was caught by Alastair Cook at slip.
He then caught and bowled Clarke on 38, just as the Australian captain was beginning to find his rhythm.
“In the first innings it was important that we got 430 – and the way we put the Australia bowlers under pressure,” said Ali.
“We are slightly ahead. A couple of early wickets tomorrow would put them under pressure. I would rather be in our position than Australia’s.”
Australia had made a decent start to their innings- with veteran opener Chris Rodgers scoring an impressive 95 before being caught behind from a Chris Wood delivery.
It was the seventh consecutive test fifty that Rodgers had scored for the Aussies, however he has failed to convert any of those half centuries into hundreds.
Following his dismissal, the frustration showed as Rodgers kicked the ground in disbelief and grudged off the field of play in a state of disappointment.
“I started to get some rhythm with my feet and weight. Once you hit some out the middle the confidence comes through,” said Rodgers.
“I’m just disappointed I didn’t make it count.
“The pitch is a bit two-paced now. You saw with the Adam Voges dismissal that kicked a little. It is going to get harder and harder, but if you set your stall out and you are happy to bat a long time there is still the opportunity.
“It has been an excellent day of Test cricket. England maybe have the slight upper hand but hopefully we can get a few more runs.”
If England can get back batting with a lead of 60-100, and then score well themselves in their second innings, they should be able to sneak an early victory over their bitter rivals.
The pitch in Cardiff is becoming more of a batsman’s’ nightmare each passing day. There seems to be less bounce on a wicket, which highly favours the bowlers (both seamers and spinners).
It would seem difficult for Australia to chase anything surpassing 350 in order to win this match, but don’t rule anything out- they are still searching for a first Ashes test victory on English soil for 14 years, that’s more than enough motivation for them to turn this test around in their favour.