England’s vice-captain for the fourth Test against India, Moeen Ali has asserted that he is eager to cement his spot in the Test side, and has also confirmed that he will be vying for a spot in the starting XI against Australia if the Ashes does go ahead.
Recalled to the Test side at Lord’s after being overlooked for the first Test at Trent Bridge, Ali has had a middling outing against India thus far - averaging 16 with the bat and 45 with the ball - but has provided plenty of balance to the side while also showcasing great maturity.
Preferred over Jack Leach due to his ability with the bat, Ali, speaking ahead of the fourth Test at the Oval, claimed that after settling into the side nicely, he is now keen to make the #7 spot in the Test side his own.
"I want to cement my spot in the team. Having had a couple of games under my belt, I feel I have found the rhythm of the game,” Ali said in a press conference ahead of the fourth Test.
"Looking forward to the next two games against India to put in some performances to keep my spot in the team and then Australia.
"A lot more information is needed for players and families to think about going ahead. If the tour takes place I am quite keen to go and cement my place," he said.
In the absence of both Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes, Thursday will mark the first instance of the 34-year-old vice-captaining the Test side, having previously done so on multiple occasions in white-ball cricket. Ali said that he is ‘excited’ to be stepping into the leadership role, and quipped that he wouldn’t mind marshalling the troops for a while should skipper Joe Root temporarily leave the field during the Test.
"Yeah sounds amazing, to captain or vice-captain England in any form is huge, and I'm just very excited. I'm obviously not hoping for Joe (Root) to go off the field but if he does go off I'm looking forward to the role."
4 wickets have been taken by off-spinners in the ongoing Test series, and interestingly all 4 have come from the arm of Ali, thanks to Ashwin warming the bench for the visitors. India have opted for a four-seamer strategy thus far this series, and the tactic has seen Ravindra Jadeja make it into the starting XI as the sole spinner, owing to his effectiveness with the bat.
Ali admitted that he is ‘surprised’ over India’s apprehension to play Ashwin, but insisted that the visitors have an equally able player in the form of Jadeja, who he claimed is ‘an amazing cricketer’. The 34-year-old, however, expects team India to consider Ashwin for the fourth Test starting tomorrow.
"Yeah a little bit (surprised over Ashwin not playing) but I also feel Jadeja is an amazing cricketer, he is one of my favourite characters in the world," Moeen said.
"I would always have Jadeja in my team and I think India after winning at Lord's would have gone with four seamers (at Headingley) and Jadeja did a great job. He is batting really well. I am sure Ashwin has been considered and will be considered for tomorrow."
The all-rounder claimed that he expects India to show great intensity come the fourth Test, but asserted that he is confident of his side putting up a strong showing. Ali said that England will draw inspiration from the fact that, seven years ago, England dusted India 3-1 after having found themselves in a similar situation as this year, having gone 1-0 down in the series.
"Expecting India to come up with the intensity they have shown thus far. We had a great first day at Headingley and for the rest of the match we played really well. Just think were were really focused last game and concentrated on our own performances.
"The one thing we are really good at as a team, I think, is coming back from behind. Now going forward is really about putting in the performance that can take us ahead. We're quite confident and in particular against India having done so in 2014, I think.”