Ali still wary of South Africa

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LEEDS: Moeen Ali in­sisted no one in the Eng­land camp was get­ting car­ried away af­ter they un­der­lined their Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy cre­den­tials with a com­pre­hen­sive 72-run one-day in­ter­na­tional win over South Africa at Head­in­g­ley.

Wed­nes­day’s suc­cess saw Eng­land go 1-0 up in a three-match se­ries against South Africa, top of the In­ter­na­tional Cricket Coun­cil’s ODI rank­ings.

The de­ci­sive win was all the more timely given that next week sees the start of the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy, a tour­na­ment fea­tur­ing the world’s lead­ing eight ODI sides.

Hosts Eng­land will kick things off against Bangladesh at The Oval on Thurs­day as they go in search of their first ma­jor 50over ti­tle.

But be­fore then, they still have two ODIs against the Proteas, with to­day’s match at Southamp­ton fol­lowed by a se­ries fi­nale at Lord’s on Mon­day.

Ali, whose flu­ent 77 not out to­gether with cap­tain Eoin Mor­gan’s cen­tury laid the plat­form for Eng­land’s win in Leeds, said af­ter­wards: “We’re only 1-0 up with two games to go, but it’s a great start to the sum­mer.

“We were 2-0 up against them in South Africa (in 2015/16) and we lost 3-2. They’re a very good side, and we know that.”

Not known as a big hit­ter, left­hander Ali still struck five sixes at York­shire’s head­quar­ters.

It was ma­jor re­turn to form given he had man­aged just a line fifty in 28 ODI in­nings since his ca­reer-best 128 at the 2015 World Cup.

Ali said his in­nings owed much to some late ad­vice from Eng­land as­sis­tant coach Paul Far­brace.

“I ac­tu­ally wasn’t bat­ting that well in the nets,” he said. “I went in­side with Paul Far­brace, and he knows my game quite well now.

“I had a chat with him, and he helped — and I felt in a good rhythm go­ing into this match.”

Ali fin­ished things off in style with a leg­side pick-up six off Chris Mor­ris’s fi­nal ball of the in­nings.

“Even to­wards the end of my in­nings there were a cou­ple I tried to slog, and I lost my shape,” he ex­plained.

“Then the last ball I tried to keep my shape as much as I could.

“It’s more an in­stinc­tive way of bat­ting, and Farby helped me a lot.”

Ali, who was left out of Eng­land’s pre­ced­ing 2-0 se­ries win over Ire­land, made his name as a top-or­der bats­man but now comes in much later for Eng­land.

“I find bat­ting seven tough,” he ad­mit­ted. “But I’m try­ing to be good at it and get bet­ter at it.”

Ali’s in­clu­sion was prob­a­bly aided by the fact that all-rounder Ben Stokes was also back in the side on Wed­nes­day af­ter a suc­cess­ful stint in the In­dian Pre­mier League.

Stokes, how­ever, suf­fered a knee in­jury — hav­ing had surgery last year — at Head­in­g­ley and is now set to have a scan.

But Ali be­lieves Eng­land, who suf­fered an em­bar­rass­ing firstround exit at the 2015 World Cup, are now much more than a one­man band in the 50-over game.

“We’ve got the team that is ca­pa­ble of (win­ning our next seven matches),” he said. AFP

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