Proud Muslim Moeen Ali emerges as cult figure

Aug 13 2014, 21:12 IST
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SummaryA proud Muslim of Pakistani descent featuring a luxuriant black beard has become a cult figure after performing heroics with the ball during England's spirited fightback in the current series against India.

Moeen Ali, a proud Muslim of Pakistani descent featuring a luxuriant black beard has become a cult figure after performing heroics with the ball during England's spirited fightback in the current series against India.

England, in disarray after their traumatic 5-0 defeat in Australia this year, selected 27-year-old Moeen Ali for the two-test series against Sri Lanka as a batsman who could also fill in with a few overs of off-spin after Graeme Swann's abrupt retirement during the Ashes series.

The left-handed Moeen batted with elegance and composure to record his maiden test century in the second test only to watch helplessly from the other end when James Anderson was dismissed off the penultimate delivery to allow the visitors to snatch their first series victory in England.

Alastair Cook, struggling with both the captaincy and his own batting, rarely entrusted Moeen with the ball.

Whereas Swann, the best England off-spinner since Jim Laker in the 1950s, was used as a stock bowler who could both contain and attack, Moeen bowled only 52 overs in four Sri Lanka innings, placing an extra burden on the England pace attack.

England's dismal capitulation in the second test against India at Lord's, with Cook failing again with the bat, placed huge pressure on both team and the captain before the third match at Southampton's Rose Bowl.

Both responded. Cook, dropped on 15 in the first innings, recovered his form and England swept to resounding victories at the Rose Bowl and then Old Trafford in Manchester before the fifth and final test starting at the Oval on Friday.

Moeen has been the heartbeat of the revival, taking 19 wickets at 22.94 in four tests and averaging a wicket every 38 balls. By contrast, Swann took 14 wickets in the four-test series against the same opponents in 2011 at a cost of 40.69 apiece.

"Graeme who?," the fans chanted as Moeen was interviewed on television last Friday. On Saturday, as England completed a victory within three days with Moeen taking four for 39 and effecting a run out, the cry was "Super Mo, super Mo, super Moeen Ali."

Moeen has been tutored at Worcestershire by Pakistan's Saeed Ajmal and bowled what is believed to the first doosra (the off-spinner's leg-break) by an England bowler during the second test against Sri Lanka.

But his sudden emergence as a frontline bowler has been credited to team mate Ian Bell, who counselled him to bowl quicker with a tighter

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