Eight wickets, but Moeen Ali’s lack of control after long absence from red-ball cricket proves costly

A return of eight wickets in the second Test in Chennai looks good on paper but Moeen Ali blamed lack of warm-up cricket and the brilliance of Rohit Sharma for the fact that those eight wickets cost him a total of 226 runs from 61 overs.

The off spinner, who hadn’t played a Test for more than two years, nor a first-class match for 16 months, felt he bowled well on his return but appreciated that a chance to get used to conditions in India again might have been helpful.

But he admitted that Rohit – and to some extent Cheteshwar Pujara – refused to let him settle.

“I felt I bowled really well [but] Rohit and Pujara played me particularly well and never let me bowl the way I wanted to bowl,” he said of registering figures of four for 128 from 29 overs. “Getting four wickets [in the first innings] was nice though and I know that had I played practice games I would’ve done better.”

In truth Moeen was too expensive, but he showed greater control in the India second innings, taking four for 98 from 32 overs.

Moeen might have made his comeback in Sri Lanka in the lead up to the India tour but tested positive for Covid almost as soon as he arrived on the island. He had to spend the best part of two weeks in isolation in a hotel and although he was cleared before the second Test in Galle, the England management felt the game came too soon for him, so Dominic Bess remained the man in possession.

Bess took wickets in Sri Lanka and the first Test in Chennai without ever looking completely convincing and with England denied a serious warm-up game in India, Moeen found himself on the sidelines again. Concerns about Bess’s bowling in the second innings there, meant the Worcestershire all-rounder was drafted in for the second Test, his only bowling having come at the rearranged IPL in the UAE late last year.

Even then, the RCB player merited only five overs in three matches, his only victim Shreyas Iyer against Delhi Capitals.

But there was some sort of revenge for him remaining ignored for so long by the RCB captain Virat Kohli during that tournament and the subsequent news that he would not be retained by the franchise: Moeen got him in both innings of this Test, first with a beautifully pitched off break floated up outside off that turned significantly to beat Kohli’s drive – leaving the Indian gaping in astonishment – and again when he trapped him lbw from around the wicket.

“Virat is a brilliant player of spin, to get him out was great. It was a nice ball,” he said of the first dismissal.

Nice enough to get him a new contract for the next edition of the IPL? Possibly. Kolkata Knight Riders, where England one-day captain Eoin Morgan took over the captaincy mid-tournament last year, Rajasthan Royals, where a number of England team-mates strut their stuff, and Chennai Super Kings are seen as his most likely destination.

Jingle by James Sherwood