“Ali has been a vital cog in this English line-up, his bowling has been more than handy and along with Adil Rashid, they have formed a formidable bowling pair”

On Sunday, when Australia won the toss and opted to bat first on the flat surface of Old Trafford, it was clear that they are here for a fight. The game was a dead rubber, but Australia were playing for pride, to avoid a whitewash. England have never ever registered a whitewash against Australia in their ODI history, in fact, the only time they did so was back in 2001 against Zimbabwe. This was their golden chance to script history.

Australian openers – Aaron Finch and Travis Head started off on a brisk note, scoring runs at a good strike-rate. In 6 overs, Australia were well placed at 58 for 0 and it looked as if they were going to give England a taste of their own medicine. The ball was in Australia’s court and England were running out of options. The conditions were conducive for batting and Australian batsmen were exploiting it brutally.

Eoin Morgan made few changes, and then he played his trump card Moeen Ali in the seventh over. Ali wasted no time and struck twice in his very first over to put Australia on the back foot. He cleaned up Finch on the third delivery and then got rid of Marcus Stoinis for a second-ball duck. Finch has a knack of scoring big and was the man in form for Australia. He scored a century in the previous game and looked in a good rhythm here but Ali ensured the elegant right-handed batsman didn’t make a substantial score off the good start. Within an over, Moeen Ali swung the pendulum in England’s favour and out of nowhere, the hosts were in total command. This has been the pattern in the series so far; only England have had the liberty to celebrate.

Ali wasn’t done yet. Shaun Marsh was outfoxed by Ali as Jos Buttler got the job done behind the stumps. Ali was getting the ball to turn and creating problems for batsmen. Ali’s spell turned the game on its head as Australia were precariously placed at 100 for 5 after being 60 for no loss at one stage. They looked good for a massive total, but English bowlers did well to put brakes on their run, especially Ali.

Most importantly, Morgan has shown immense faith in his abilities. When things were almost running out of England’s control, the captain summoned Ali and the bowler delivered what was expected out of him. This speaks the kind of trust and expectations the team has from Ali.

Australia were cleaned up for 205 within 35 overs, Ali had one more wicket of Billy Stanlake in the end. The lanky bowler was clean bowled as Ali recorded his career-best ODI figures of 4 for 46. Ali has been on a roll in the series, his willow may not have fired, but his bowling has got the job done. He has managed to scalp 12 wickets in the series so far and has constantly provided breakthroughs. That’s the beauty of an all-rounder, he can contribute in so many ways and turn out to be handy.

Ali has been a vital cog in this English line-up, his bowling has been more than handy and along with Adil Rashid, they have formed a formidable bowling pair. Although England did have a lot of hiccups in the run-chase, but some brilliant batting from Buttler ensured England registered their second-ever ODI whitewash. Ali has made his presence dominant with a series of formidable performances against Australia. A player like him provides solid stability in the line-up and it’s only about time before he rediscovers his mojo with the bat. With wrist-spin being the talk of the town, Ali has made an impact with his finger spin while banking on accuracy and basics. He is not a bowler, who possesses a wrong’un to outfox batsman, but varies his pace and length smartly to pick wickets.

England have developed into a formidable force in the shorter formats, they have superstars in the line-up. The only weak link lies in their bowling and this outing from their bowlers would have certainly pushed them for good. They have gained momentum and will be the team to beat henceforth. Their next assignment will be against India, which will be a litmus test for them in their backyard. Ali’s success resolves their bowling woes to an extent, but they still have a long way to go.

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