Ferguson says Moeen can still be an Ashes x-factor
England allrounder’s Australian teammate says the hosts should stick with the spinner for the second Ashes Test
Andrew Ramsey at New Road, Worcester
9 August 2019, 05:00 PM AEST
Australian batsman Callum Ferguson believes his Worcestershire teammate and good friend Moeen Ali is not only capable of turning around his lean Ashes form, he might yet prove to be the series' decisive influence.
Ferguson is in his second season at New Road and holds a keen understanding as to how Moeen's disappointing output in the recently completed first Test at Edgbaston could have dented his self-belief.
England's spin-bowling allrounder returned match figures of 3-172 from 42 overs with the ball and scored 0 and 4 batting at No.8 in his team's 251-run defeat.
But while those headline numbers paint a broad-brush picture of Moeen's lack of effectiveness in both disciplines, it was the finer detail residing beneath that has led to his place in England's starting XI for the next Test at Lord's (from Wednesday) being questioned.
On an Edgbaston pitch that was demonstrably dry from the first morning, and upon which Moeen's rival off-spinner Nathan Lyon bowled Australia to victory with 6-49 on the final day, England's principal spinner managed just four maidens for the match.
And three of those came in the first innings, when finger spinners posed less of a threat than seamers.
Even more worrying was Moeen's double failure with the bat, losing his wicket in both innings to Lyon who appears to have taken a mental hold over the 32-year-old having dismissed him nine times in Moeen's past 11 Test innings against Australia.
The most telling of those dismissals came in the first innings at Edgbaston, when Moeen was totally deceived by a delivery from Lyon that was angled into the left-hander, and uprooted his off-stump without Moeen offering a stroke.
But Ferguson, who at Worcestershire has witnessed first-hand the character and calibre that has made Moeen England's leading Test wicket-taker over the past year, has no doubt the quietly-spoken spinner can bounce back.
"That would have been a really tough one for him," Ferguson said of Moeen's performance in the first Test that finished last Monday.
"Obviously with Nathan (Lyon) taking the wickets that he did, and bowling as well as he did on the last day, I just wonder if maybe he (Moeen) has lost a bit of confidence.
"He probably hasn't made as many runs as he would have liked recently.
"But as a mate of his and as a teammate of his, I still believe that he's got the ability to be the x-factor for England in this series."
With England trailing 0-1 in the five-Test series, and Moeen unable to trouble Australia's in-form batting mainstay Steve Smith who scored a century in each innings at Edgbaston, some commentators have called for left-arm spinner Jack Leach to brought in as Moeen's replacement.
Leach was player of the match in England's recent one-off Test against Ireland at Lord's – the venue for the upcoming second Ashes Test – despite not taking a wicket.
He earned the award on the basis of the 92 he scored as nightwatchman when called on to open England's innings on the first evening, which indicates that the team's batting would not suffer hugely if Moeen was replaced.
Former England captain Nasser Hussain said in the aftermath of the first Test that England's selectors faced a tough call on Moeen's immediate future despite his recent Test record.
"He's been a fabulous bowler for England over the last two or three years if you look at his stats and how he's done," Hussain told Sky Sports.
"They just have to decide where he is confidence-wise; is he shot mentally?
"Is the lack of runs with Lyon being all over him, as he was in Australia (in 2017-18), affecting his bowling?
"Is it slight technical things that he is working on with Saqlain Mushtaq (England's spin bowling coach)?
"Where is he mentally? Because this game is played in the mind.
"Also there are the stats showing Smith is slightly worse against left-arm spin, they might want to try a bit of that and Jack Leach is waiting."
However, Ferguson has urged England's selectors to stick with his Worcestershire teammate for the upcoming second Test due largely to his bowling potency but also because of the lower-order threat he can pose with the bat.
Over the past year, Moeen has claimed 48 wickets at an average of 25.27, which is a better return than England's pace bowling trump cards, the most successful new-ball pairing Test cricket has known, James Anderson (31 at 22.39) and Stuart Broad (33 at 24.87).
Ferguson also believes Moeen can influence a game with the bat due to his ability to score quickly against weary bowlers late in an innings, even though in the previous 12 months he has averaged just 15.10 and registered five ducks from 19 Test innings.
"I'm hopeful that he'll get the chance at Lord's because he's got a fantastic record in England with the ball, and certainly I think his batting is dangerous," Ferguson said at Worcester on Thursday.
"Coming into the (Ashes) series, I thought he had the ability to be the x-factor for England.
"He didn’t have the game he would have liked at Edgbaston, but I certainly believe the character that he is and the way he applies himself and the way that he holds himself, he's got the ability to bounce back.
"So he's always a danger man in my eyes."
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Moeen Ali, Jimmy Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Olly Stone, Chris Woakes.
First Test: Australia beat England by 251 runs at Edgbaston
Tour match: Australians v Worcestershire, August 7-9
Second Test: August 14-18,Lord's
Third Test: August 22-26, Headingley
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval