After taking on the crocs, Moeen won’t be bullied by a bouncer barrage Down Under. He is England’s...
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.
Crunch time: Moeen Ali, alongside team-mate Alastair Cook (left), nervously feeds an 800kg crocodile named Bully
Cricket Correspondent reports from Townsville PAUL NEWMAN