21 September 2016

Yes, we should pick Moeen Ali, but No, we should not bowl him...

Despite winning 4 out of 7 test matches, many would regard the summer of 2016 as disappointing for England, failing to beat Pakistan thanks to selection incompetence at Lord's and sheer incompetence at The Oval. 

England's failure - as I've said before - was in part down to the fact Yasir Shah completely outspan Moeen Ali in the Pakistan series. Even in England's near-perfect Sri Lanka series, Moeen Ali only took two wickets.

You could say "Moeen Ali's bowling average this season is lower than his batting average, he's therefore a great all-rounder". Well, he's averaged 63.13 this season with the bat. And a shockingly bad 53.23 with the ball. That's 159.4-24-692-13. It was a shocking 90.00 against Sri Lanka, and that's not what you want from a spin bowler.

A bowler who hasn't taken a single five-fer since 2014 is still England's first choice spinner, somehow. Adil Rashid has taken a five-wicket haul since then in Tests and isn't still being picked regularly, so what on earth are England thinking?

If it were not for Ali's batting, his place in the England team would surely be under consideration, particularly now that Michael Vaughan has finally got his way and Gareth Batty has been picked. 

Although I wanted him to be included, I was surprised at the inclusion of Zafar Ansari considering he's spent nearly all year out with various injuries. He may be a shoo-in for the second test.

Alastair Cook should treat Moeen Ali as a specialist batsman and look to Adil Rashid and Gareth Batty to deliver for the first test match. Batty is a far better bowler than he was 11 years ago, plus Rashid is good in one-day situations - much like Samee Badree, who didn't spin a ball in the entire World T20 but did very well for that precise reason - but as has been proved this year is not great on slow turners.

There has been a clamour for the inclusion of Jack Leach, but frankly it's hard to see why considering Taunton has been spinning square miles from day 1 in every match they've played. To illustrate the point, Gareth Batty took a 10-fer in the Championship match down there and still lost, including the best Surrey figures for the season of 7-32.

I am a big fan of bowling in partnerships and so I would look towards the following starting XI in Bangladesh:

1 A Cook (c)
2 H Hameed
3 J Root
4 B Stokes
5 J Bairstow (wk)
6 M Ali
7 C Woakes
8 A Rashid
9 S Broad
10 G Batty
11 J Anderson

Batty may go ahead of Broad, but otherwise it's a pretty safe bet. England may go for a fifth seamer over Batty, or an extra batsman in Gary Ballance, but I can't really see England playing fewer than 5 bowlers (plus Ali and Root). 

The unlucky ones:

Z Ansari
G Ballance
J Buttler
B Duckett
S Finn
M Wood

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