ALI-GA­TOR

Af­ter tak­ing on the crocs, Moeen won’t be bul­lied by a bouncer bar­rage Down Un­der. He is Eng­land’s...

Daily Mail - - The Ashes 2017 - @Paul_New­manDM

MoEEn AlI pro­fessed him­self a lit­tle ner­vous yes­ter­day be­fore he could be seen back­ing away from a par­tic­u­larly big and nasty Aus­tralian op­po­nent.

Eng­land can only hope his per­for­mance was not a metaphor for the Ashes.

Thank­fully, this was not the Gabba but Townsville’s Bil­l­abong Sanc­tu­ary and the beast con­fronting Moeen was not Mitchell Starc but an 800kg croc­o­dile called Bully.

It re­mains to be seen which one of them has the big­gest bite but Moeen, who has just re­cov­ered from a side strain, was keep­ing a safe dis­tance from a croc who could in­flict far worse dam­age.

At least he had an old hand at Ashes stunts with him in Alas­tair Cook who, with his love of the out­doors, seemed hap­pier to feed Bully two dead chick­ens that the lo­cal mayor, not so sub­tly, said were called Moeen and Alas­tair.

Away from the sideshow of a visit to pro­mote to­mor­row’s fi­nal warm-up game here in Queens­land, Moeen was happy to talk about an Aus­tralian at­tack that re­ally will be bay­ing for his blood in the ‘Gab­ba­toir’ next week.

Eng­land’s best player in Ben Stokes is still ab­sent and in limbo so Moeen, off the back of the best sum­mer of his ca­reer, sim­ply has to step up. Prob­a­bly to no 7 with Jonny Bairstow at six, and take his place as the team’s pre­mier all-rounder.

‘ob­vi­ously I want Ben out here but this is also an op­por­tu­nity for me to go up the order which I want to do as much as I can,’ said Moeen. ‘I want to go higher up and, if I can score runs, then I can deal with it.’

Aus­tralia, mainly in the form of the ex­press Starc and Pat Cum­mins, will bom­bard Moeen with the short-pitched bowl­ing that has at times been his achilles heel, but the English­man in­sisted: ‘It won’t be any­thing new and I’m look­ing for­ward to it.

‘I think they will come af­ter a few of the guys be­cause it’s that sort of se­ries. I’ve had it many times be­fore so I’m not too wor­ried. The Aus­tralians like to talk a lot and big them­selves up but I pre­fer to stay calm.’

Part of his prepa­ra­tion here has in­volved fac­ing ex­treme pace from and throw- some­thing downs short from of 22 field­ing yards coach Paul Colling­wood on to a tray with a spe­cially pre­pared ball that ac­cen­tu­ates speed.

‘It’s a drill I learnt in In­dia,’ said Moeen. ‘I use it to ex­ag­ger­ate the pace the ball comes at you and it just sharp­ens me up. You need a good thrower, which Colly is, and I’ve been hit loads of times but the more I do it, the bet­ter I feel.’ Moeen re­turns here to­mor­row against the same Cricket Aus­tralia XI beaten in Ade­laide at a venue cho­sen by Eng­land coach Trevor Bayliss to repli­cate Gabba con­di­tions, and they will field their Test top seven. But Jimmy An­der­son will be rested and Eng­land will de­cide af­ter prac­tice today whether there is any chance of Jake Ball re­turn­ing af­ter his an­kle in­jury. Tom Cur­ran could make his first red-ball ap­pear­ance for the full Eng­land team. Moeen in­sisted the in­jury that kept him out of Eng­land’s open­ing two games is not se­ri­ous and he will play here to­mor­row. ‘There were just cer­tain move­ments I couldn’t do, but I’m fine now,’ he said.

GETTY IMAGES

Crunch time: Moeen Ali, along­side team-mate Alas­tair Cook (left), ner­vously feeds an 800kg croc­o­dile named Bully

Cricket Cor­re­spon­dent re­ports from Townsville PAUL NEW­MAN

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