CARDIFF: Moeen Ali reckoned England were in “pole position” after impressing with both bat and ball on the second day of the first Ashes Test against Australia at Sophia Gardens on Thursday.
Batting at No 8, Ali, who made his name as a top-order shotmaker, struck a rapid 77 to help boost England’s first innings total to 430 all out — the first time they had passed 400 in three Ashes series.
The off-spinning all-rounder then captured the prize wickets of Steven Smith, the world’s number one ranked Test batsman, and Australia captain Michael Clarke, who both fell to him in the 30s.
Australia then lost Ashes debutant Adam Voges before the close and ended the day on 264 for five — still 166 runs adrift of England.
“I think we’re ahead,” said Ali, who shot to prominence last year with 14 wickets in England’s home series win over India.
“That last wicket put us into pole position a bit more.”
Both Ali and Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon have been targeted by opposition batsmen already this match as both sides look to take an aggressive approach.
However, Ali was able to outwit Smith on Wednesday when he spotted the batsman’s charge and induced a leading edge which was caught by England captain Alastair Cook at a short mid-on position.
“He kept using his feet at me, and I almost went a little bit one-day mode — trying to bowl it at his hip, or fire it down the leg-side, and he got himself into a bit of a mess really,” Ali said.
“He can take you down, but he can also give you a chance — and I’m always telling myself that I’m one ball away from getting a wicket,” added the 28-year-old Worcestershire all-rounder, who also caught and bowled Clarke.
“I think these guys [Australia] are going to try to attack me a little bit more than India did last year. So I’m developing a few other things, trying to mix my pace a little bit more.”
As for his dashing 88-ball innings, Ali said: “I just go out and play exactly the same way I would do batting in the top order.”
Australia opener Chris Rogers marked his return to Test cricket with 95 on Wednesday, having missed his side’s 2-0 series win in the Caribbean because of concussion.
His innings saw the 37-year-old set a new record for most successive Test fifties without a hundred when his seventh straight half-century ended five runs short of what would have been his fourth Ashes ton.
Rogers, who plans to retire after this series, said: “It’s always disappointing when you get so close and maybe I could have done a slightly better job for the side.”
As for the state of the match, Rogers said: “England might have the slight upper hand but we’ve got some good batting to come so if we can get a bit closer we’ll put the pressure on and you never know what can happen.”