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Cricket news - Moeen, the ODI bowler, falls short on delivery
85 off 60, 51 off 42, and 31 off 12.
Going by the standards of modern limited-overs cricket, any batsman capable of such consistent returns, at such a blistering rate, is an asset to his team. For a bowler, however, conceding runs at that rate is an unpardonable crime, and Moeen Ali-one of the first names in England's limited-overs setup-is the bowler found guilty of that in the recently concluded ODI series against the Windies.
85, 51 and 31 are the number of runs he conceded in his 10-, seven- and two-over spells during the first, second and fourth ODIs against the Windies respectively, at an abysmal overall economy rate of 8.79. While it is true that this series hasn't been kind to the bowlers, his failure to show any success in the wickets column make his figures look even worse. Although his partner in crime, Adil Rashid, has also gone at an overall economy rate of 7.48 in this series, he has nine wickets to show to his name, including a match-winning five-wicket haul in the fourth ODI as well.
This is a drastic change of fortunes for Ali, who was England's highest wicket-taker (14) in their 2-1 defeat to the Windies in the Test series preceding the ODIs. There is no doubt about his effectiveness as a spinner in the longest format. His consistency, discipline and accuracy make him a perfect bowler for Test cricket. In fact, no other bowler has more Test wickets than Ali's 44 since the time he was recalled into England's Test squad-on the back of superb all-round performances for Worcestershire-for the final two matches against India in August last year.
However, he hasn't been able to replicate the same success as a spinner in ODI cricket during this period, and that makes it a cause for concern for England with the World Cup only three months away. It might be argued that Ali is not in England's ODI team for his wicket-taking ability, but he is there to provide the control and discipline from one end while other bowlers go on the offensive from the other end. So his role is more of a container, who has to keep the run-rate under check. Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to do that either.
Ali has the second worst economy rate for spinners who have bowled at least 200 overs since Champions Trophy 2017. His teammate Adil Rashid's economy is the worst among them all but it hardly matters considering his wickets. It was evident once again in the fourth ODI against the Windies, at Grenada, as he claimed five wickets in a match-winning cause despite going for 83 runs at an economy rate of 8.30.
But Ali's average and strike-rate tell why he cannot enjoy the same luxury as Rashid. In fact, he has the third lowest number of wickets among the aforementioned category of spinners despite bowling approximately eight overs per match during this period on average. Pitting Ali against leg-spinners might seem to be a bit unfair. After all, the art of leg spin is the dominant force in limited-overs cricket right now. The 31-year old, however, has the worst overall economy rate even among finger spinners who have bowled at least 100 overs during this period.
The all-rounder's average and strike-rate are also the third and fourth worst in this list respectively, and the presence of a part timer like Kedar Jadhav above him sums up Ali's struggles to meet the demands of ODI cricket.
In spite of these telling figures, Ali's position in the ODI setup hasn't come under threat as England have a dearth of similar options. Liam Dawson is the only finger spinner, other than Ali, who has been tried in their ODI setup since World Cup 2015. But he was never picked after a limited stint of three ODIs in which he fetched three wickets at an expensive overall economy rate of 6.85.
It might also seem that Ali is there in the ODI setup because of his batting abilities as well. Although that can be considered as a reason, it is not strong enough considering that he bats mostly at No.7. In fact, in the 34 matches he has played for England since Champions Trophy 2017, he has batted only 22 times, facing 25 deliveries or more on only eight occasions. That sums up why England are not really concerned about what he does with the bat. Yes, their collapse in the final ODI of the series against the Windies was dismal but their top six batsmen do the job for them on most days.
The issue is that Ali hasn't been able to adapt to this format yet. His conventional bowling style is redundant in this day and age. Even against the Windies, he had a natural bowling advantage against their batting line-up as four of their top five batsmen were left-handers. However, he has been thrashed all around the park primarily because of a lack of variations in his repertoire. He needs to use the crease better to generate different angles for his deliveries, and also needs to add at least one more variation to back his conventional off-breaks.
The upcoming IPL season might be an opportune time for Ali to experiment and improve on this aspect. England don't need his batting skills that much as they have unarguably the strongest top six in international cricket right now, but they would certainly want more out of his bowling, and the team surely deserves better from him to turn their dream of claiming their maiden ODI world title into reality.
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