England v India: 'I put winter form behind me' – Moeen Ali
All-rounder Moeen Ali says he has moved on from the difficult winter that cost him his place in the England side.
Moeen managed only five wickets and 207 runs in six matches in Australia and New Zealand, but has returned with 5-63 and 40 against India in Southampton.
“It’s about believing that you’re not a bad player after one bad winter. Many have gone through that,” said Moeen.
“I shrugged it off and tried to get better – that is what I feel I have been doing.”
Moeen is playing in his first Test since March. On day one, he combined with Sam Curran to help drag England from 86-6 to 246 all out.
On Friday, his took five wickets either side of tea with his off-spin as India slipped from 142-2 to 195-8.
Cheteshwar Pujara’s unbeaten 132 eventually took the visitors to 273, with England closing on 6-0, 21 runs behind.
For Moeen, it was a continuation of the good form that saw him score a double century and take eight wickets for Worcestershire against Yorkshire in the County Championship last week.
“I went back to Worcestershire and cleared my mind,” said the 31-year-old.
“You have to put things into perspective. Australia is always a difficult place for foreign spinners, no matter who they are.”
Moeen is no stranger to success in Southampton. Four years ago, he took eight wickets on this ground against the same opponents.
That performance is indicative of his superior record playing in England compared to abroad. At home, he averages 32.27 with the ball; it is 52.27 away.
“For me, mentally, it was about coming back knowing that I’ve played India in England before and have done well at home before,” he said.
“There’s no reason why I can’t come back and do that again.”
Moeen has joined Adil Rashid in the England side, effectively acting as the second spinner behind the leg-break bowler.
England coach Trevor Bayliss and Moeen himself have both said in the past that he performs better when supporting another slow bowler, a stance Moeen reiterated on Friday.
“I do feel that the role in the side right now is my best role, mainly as a batsman and coming on as a second spinner,” he said.
“It gives me more confidence and freedom. I end up playing better. I see my role as a batter who will hopefully come on and take a few wickets.”
However, former England spinner Phil Tufnell believes that Moeen is England’s best spin-bowling option in home conditions.
“Every time I see him bowl in England, he seems to take wickets,” said Tufnell, who took 121 wickets in 42 Tests.
“It doesn’t matter what you are, or what your role in the side is – just bowl spin and enjoy it. It doesn’t matter if you are the first, second, third or fourth-choice spinner.”
Tufnell, however, did acknowledge Moeen’s contrasting fortunes away from home and suggested one way he can improve when playing abroad.
“His pace and trajectory for English conditions is spot on,” said the former left-armer. “It’s a little flatter, a little quicker.
“When you go away and the ball doesn’t turn and bounce as much, Moeen needs an ‘up-and-over’ delivery, which someone like Nathan Lyon bowls in Australia.
“That means more flight, getting the ball to kick and bounce off the surface.”