Captain Jos Buttler’s backing of Headingley spin kings sees England draw level with Pakistan
Moeen Ali praised England’s stand-in captainJos Buttler after he trusted his slow bowlers to spin it and win it in the second Twenty20 against Pakistan at Emerald Headingley.
Defending a total of 200 all out, built around his own free-scoring 59, Buttler relied on his trio of tweakers to deliver more than half of the overs in baking conditions in Leeds after stepping in for the rested Eoin Morgan.
No England captain has ever used as much spin in T20 cricket as the 11 overs sent down by Yorkshire’s Adil Rashid, Matt Parkinson and Moeen.
Between them they took five wickets for 87, slowing down the tourists’ chase and making important breakthroughs that paved the way for a 45-run win.
“I don’t think it was a game plan, it was just Jos playing the conditions,” said Moeen, who dismissed Mohammad Hafeez and Fakhar Zaman in his second over.
“I don’t think it was risky at all. Today it was great conditions to be a spinner.
“Having batted on it for a while himself he felt like facing spin was quite tough and it did spin. It thought our leg-spinners bowled fantastically well, Parky and Rash complimented each other brilliantly.
“They’re both very different but both very skilful.”
Moeen also enjoyed his most impactful recent performance in England colours, bowling more than a solitary over for the first time in 10 matches and hitting a feisty 36 from 16 balls at number four.
He has struggled to lock in a defined role in the past couple of years but, at 34 years old, is trying not to let his changing circumstances affect his ability to perform.
“Being an all-rounder you want to bat and bowl as much as you can and it’s been quite difficult and tough,” he explained.
“Sometimes in the past I could have let it put me down a bit mentally, in terms of not playing and getting frustrated, but now I am a little bit wiser I try to keep feeling confident and playing well.
“It does make you feel like the role I have is bits and pieces, but there will be times I’ll be up the order. I do see myself as a bit of a utility player.”
Moeen has seen his place come under growing pressure from Liam Livingstone’s rising status.
As a big-hitting batsman who can also bowl spin, he is clearly looking to occupy some of the same space and saw his stock rise exponentially with a 42-ball century in the series opener at Trent Bridge.
He followed that with 38 in Leeds, including a staggering hit off Haris Rauf that soared over the newly developed Football End Stand.
Commentating on Sky Sports, England Test bowler Stuart Broad offered a disbelieving account of the stroke.
“I have watched it 20 times on Twitter - it is just mad! What golf club would you need to get it over that stand? I have not seen a bigger six - the height, the elevation, the distance,” he told viewers.
Moeen, meanwhile, felt a certain sense of deja-vu when the ball disappeared out of the stadium.
“It was huge. But I’ve seen him do that a couple of times now,” he said.
“I played with him in (South Africa’s) Mzansi Super League and he hit one out of Johannesburg!
“He’s playing so well at the moment and is a fantastic player who gives us that power we need sometimes.”
Delving even further into the memory banks, Moeen added: “I saw Graeme Hick hit one here a few years ago, a half-volley off the back foot...he hit Goughy (Darren Gough) over the stadium. This one was just as big.”
On his own performance, Buttler said he was proud of the performance from each and every player on his team.
“I was a bit nervous coming into today but I enjoyed it” said Buttler.
“It was great to be back out there.
“We’ve got a lot of options and that’s fantastic for us. It was nice to give Moeen Ali that opportunity today.
“It was a great all-round performance from him and the leg-spinners bowled really well together.”