South Africa in England 2017 July 10, 2017

'Best spinner' Moeen still England's No. 2


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Bayliss backing for Ballance

He may have taken a ten-wicket haul in the Lord's Test, but England will continue to treat Moeen Ali as a batsman who "bowls a little", according to their coach, Trevor Bayliss.

While Moeen, who claimed the best figures by an England spinner in a Lord's Test since 1972, has risen into the top 20 on the ICC's bowling rankings - and, at No. 4 in the allrounder rankings, is ahead of team-mate Ben Stokes - England look likely to stick with Liam Dawson as their first-choice spinner.

But if that appears to be a demotion for Moeen, Bayliss insisted it is more an attempt to alleviate him of too much pressure or expectation and suggested it was no impediment to his being England's "best spinner".

"We'll stick with one spinner and one batter that bowls a little," Bayliss said after victory at Lord's. "And that's important for Mo more than anything. He wants to be in the team as a batter that bowls a bit so we've selected him as a batter and the second spinner.

"It takes that little bit of pressure off him. He does see himself as a batter first and a spinner second. And I suppose that doesn't mean he's still not our best spinner but his No. 1 job is to bat."

Moeen enjoyed an outstanding Test with the ball at Lord's, taking his career average below 40. But, ahead of that game, his bowling average since the start of 2016 was 53.02 and there were times in India, in particular, when it seemed he was losing his way with the ball in a haze of confusion over what the side required of him. At the same time, he was scoring runs more consistently, recording four Test centuries in 2016, including two in the series in India.

While Dawson experienced a somewhat chequered game at Lord's - he suffered a pair (he has been dismissed for a duck in three successive Test innings) but recovered after a nervous start with the ball to claim four wickets in the match - Bayliss feels the control his bowling can offer complements Moeen, in particular, and the make-up of the England side in general.

It is for that reason he was preferred to Adil Rashid for selection, despite Rashid's 23 wickets in the series against India. In the one Test Dawson and Rashid played together, the former conceded three runs an over and eight boundaries from his 43 overs, the latter conceded 5.15 runs per over and 18 boundaries from his 29.4 overs.

"Moeen and Adil Rashid are very similar characters," Bayliss said. "Both are attacking spinners and we just felt if we could get someone who could control a little better - and hopefully take some wickets as well - that might set us up more long-term.

"In the second innings, Dawson did that role very well. If it is tight at one end, it allows Mo - as an attacking style offspinner - to attack at the other.

"Liam admitted he was very nervous in the first innings. It was his first Test match at home and his first Test at Lord's. It was one of those games when it didn't quite come out for him how he would have liked in that first innings, but I thought he showed the character we know he has to come back and bowl better in the second innings. It was a good partnership with Mo.

Liam Dawson claimed the big wicket of Hashim Amla in the second innings at Lord's © Getty Images

"Dawson has the opportunity at the moment but there are a number of other good, young spinners - and Rash himself - pushing hard. But Dawson is the one with the opportunity at the moment. I thought in the one Test match he played in India, he was probably our best spinner. He deserves that opportunity."

Bayliss also feel the team selected by England for the Lord's Test has the versatility and depth to prove effective on most surfaces.

"The combination we had in this game could play on a lot of wickets," he said. "We're lucky that we have Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Ali who can bat five, six and seven. That allows us to have three other pace bowlers and another spinner. Somewhere along the line, we could throw in someone else in one of those positions, whether it is another batter, another pace bowler if we need one. It just gives us plenty of options."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mark on July 12, 2017, 6:10 GMT

    Absolutely astonished by this, so by Bayliss's bizarre logic England will drop Moeen at Trent Bridge given he is only our second slimmer, and the England management surely are not going to play two slow bowlers at Trent Bridge.

  • myauto9513973 on July 11, 2017, 23:39 GMT

    Shameful from England, Adil was number three on the Most valuable player over winter, so all winter he is only marginally behind Ali and Stokes yet cant make the starting 11, missing out to two guys who are 18th and 15th! He took more wickets than anyone in India as a frontline spinner then you pick Dawson who thinks hes playing as a batter not a bowler. Real shame as i thought England cricket had moved forward in the last two years, anyone check shane warne record after his first ten tests? Legspin is a fine art yet for all of Rashids efforts and exploits the selectors have let the country down, were back to boring old off spin and left arm spin. Pray they see sense and actually pick the best 11 players on merit!

  • rohinikapur on July 11, 2017, 16:57 GMT

    you guys can talk him up to be the next Gary Sobers all you want...but Moeen Ali plays well and out of his skin only when his place is threatened by another bits and pieces allrounder or a happened when Adil Rashid was threatening to be the frontline spinner and now with some Liam Dawson guy....wait till a week before Moeen Ali slips back to mediocracy

  • beech78 on July 11, 2017, 15:43 GMT

    He bowled well on an amazingly helpful pitch, He bowled bad in India on an unforgiving pitch. He is just a decent county batsman who can bowl.

  • Adam on July 11, 2017, 14:04 GMT

    Dawson is just your average county cricketer, can't believe we have dropped Rash for him

  • Adam on July 11, 2017, 14:02 GMT

    Moeen along with Stokes should be on the team sheet before anyone in all forms of the game. The selectors however have made a huge mistake by dropping Rashid, he is essentially a wicket taking test match bowler yet this season we have played him in the shorter format of the game but have dropped him for the test matches ..., MADNESS !

  • Shehryar on July 11, 2017, 13:56 GMT

    @cricinfouser this is getting ridiculous. on the other hand, how do you get so many posts up? only a select few of mine ever get published.

  • adityagoel07 on July 11, 2017, 12:56 GMT

    Agreed that England played well in every department, better than SA anyway. Still they would not be so foolish to count out SA yet, as SA in a bilateral series is not the same SA in a global tournament. With Faf back, their batting already looks way better than in the last game, the only worry now is - who will be included in Rabada's place? My bet would be on Morris, as he is an all-rounder and will also carry a bit of an experience. I would still bet on SA winning at Trent Bridge and going into Oval with the series squared at 1-1. Although I have nothing against England, still. just the thought and sight of them losing, specially at their home, is something I really look forward to, every single time. Go SA go, at least bring back one piece of silverware from your English sojourn this time.

  • Chris on July 11, 2017, 12:30 GMT

    Mo is very underrated and improved massively, he didnt bowl well in India with a lot of pressure on him, He is a very useful player who i think would get in every test side around the globe.

    He is not a superstar hes just a decent player who works hard at his game and gets results, His batting has come on leaps and bounds

  • Frank on July 11, 2017, 12:08 GMT

    As per usual Landl is absolutely right.. This all about roles in the team... Everybody knows Dawson is not a worldbeating spinner, but neither is Rashid (or Mo for that matter). England simply do not have one at the moment and have chosen a different solution until a better option comes along (in line with Asley Giles before Swann, a slow bowler with decent control that can bat and field a bit...) actually quite understandable and usefull... And as Landl states, the question/debate should be whether Dawson is the best option for this specific role....

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