Moeen Ali reveals mature side as he and Ben Stokes turn screw on India

 
Ross McLean
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Stokes (centre) scored an imperious century against India (Source: Getty)

All-rounder Moeen Ali admitted the embarrassment he felt from past instances of surrendering his wicket proved the inspiration for his century as England surged into a commanding position on day two of the first Test against India.

Moeen advanced his overnight score from 99 to 117, while Ben Stokes struck an imposing ton as England’s batsmen chalked up three individual hundreds in the same innings for only the second time in Asia, and the first since 1961.

England amassed 537 before India progressed to 63-0, trailing by 474, on a predominantly true Rajkot pitch. Openers Gautam Gambhir and Murali Vijay were largely untroubled as they notched 28 and 25 not out respectively by the close.

“I try now to have the mindset of a top-order batsman [while batting at No5],” said Moeen, who scored his fourth Test century and third in 2016. “When I go in I almost pretend we’re one wicket down for not too many, and try to play to that situation.

“I’ve had enough of giving my wicket away; I was embarrassed with some of the ways I was getting out. I will still do that sometimes, but less often, the better.

“Normally I back myself to hit over the top straight away, that sort of immature batting. But I won’t do that as much anymore, it’s more about knocking the spinners off their length, picking up singles and rotating the strike.

“When the time is right, and I’m playing well, I will still hit over the top. But I just need to back my defence a bit more against spin.

“I really enjoy batting at No5. It keeps me in the game for longer, while still letting me have a break after bowling, if I’ve been in the field for a long time.”

Bowling is now Moeen’s priority, and despite England failing to prise an Indian wicket in the 23 overs before the end of the day’s play, the Worcestershire off-break bowler believes there is cause of optimism given the evidence of some turn.

“There were signs of reverse-swing and spin late on, which is encouraging ahead of tomorrow, and with a couple of wickets – I know they are brilliant players of spin – but I feel we could get into them,” added Moeen.

“All three spinners bowled well at the end of the day. That helps me a lot, because for the team I want to out bowl the other two spinners.

“Obviously, we want to build partnerships together as bowlers, but from a personal point of view I want to bowl them and take more wickets.”

Stokes had scored ducks in his three previous knocks against India but proved the star of the show on this occasion, striking 13 fours and two sixes in a 235-ball 128. The all-rounder shared a destructive stand of 99 in 21.1 overs with Jonny Bairstow, who made 46.

The 25-year-old was not without reprieves and was twice dropped by India wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha, although he did not bowl once England had taken the field after suffering with cramp.