England skipper Joe Root urged all-rounder Moeen Ali to take huge confidence from the stunning hat-trick which sealed his side’s 239-run triumph in the third Investec Test against South Africa at the Kia Oval.
Moeen became the first England spinner to take a Test hat-trick since Tom Goddard in 1938 when he accounted for Proteas centurion Dean Elgar, Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel in the hour after lunch on day five.
Victory laid to rest England’s harrowing 340-run thrashing at Trent Bridge in the second Test and they now head to Old Trafford for the final clash in the four-match series with a 2-1 lead.
England have been at pains to portray Moeen as their second spinner at times this series, principally as a mechanism to alleviate pressure, despite the 30-year-old’s 18 wickets being the highest of any bowler across the three matches so far.
“It’s a great effort. He showed great skill and nous to make such an impact on a wicket which wasn’t offering a lot of spin and which seemed to get better and better as the game went on,” said Root.
“This should give him a lot of confidence moving forward that when we need to take wickets in the fourth innings of a Test match he is able to do it.”
Never before had Moeen snared a hat-trick at any level of cricket, while it was the first ever at the Oval in a Test. The man himself was coy on the matter, much to Root’s amusement. The Yorkshireman added: “He’s been talking us through it for the last half an hour.”
Moeen said: “I’ve scored a few hat-tricks in our warm-up games of football, but that’s a better feeling. Broady [Stuart Broad] told me it was the best opportunity I’ll ever get, with Morne Morkel being a left-hander at No1. I just tried to keep it straight.”
England have only won consecutive Test matches three times since the start of 2015 with a handsome win quite often followed by a crippling defeat, a trend which Root is keen to avoid.
“We’ve not done things by halves so far in this series,” said Root. “It’s important to take the way we’ve played this week and the tempo, especially in the way we batted, into the fourth Test.
“The way the guys responded to a difficult week in Nottingham, the character they showed to come back and play in the manner they did, more than anything, was outstanding. It’s pleasing to see we have the ability to come back from a difficult week.”
Only three sides had ever saved a Test having begun the final day four wickets down. South Africa resisted for nearly an hour before seamer Toby Roland-Jones capped his impressive debut by trapping Temba Bavuma and Vernon Philander lbw in successive balls.
Moeen induced an edge from Chris Morris, which was sharply taken by Ben Stokes at slip the ball prior to lunch, after which Elgar brought up his eighth Test century with a slog over mid-off.
Then came the drama and Moeen’s moment. Elgar and Rababa went in carbon copy fashion, edging to Stokes, before Moeen became the third bowler of the innings to have the chance of a hat-trick. He had an over to wait but returned to dismiss Morkel lbw, given out on review, to scenes of glee.