Who is the most versatile player in world cricket?
Easy: Moeen Ali. He’s batted in every position from 1-9. He’s been used as a front line spinner and a containing spinner. The constant changing of roles and positions may annoy any other player, but Moeen appears to accept it. In press conferences he will always put the team first and claims to be happy to do ‘whatever is best for the team,’ A mindset that no doubt makes him popular with management but possibly encourages them to move him about.
Moeen Ali is happy to bat anywhere for England in Test cricket. http://t.co/G1M0GmHJxz
— ECB? (@ECB_cricket) 5 June 2014
It’s often the case that players thrive when they are given a consistent role in the team. Just look at Ben Stokes for an example. Paul Farbrace gave him the number six batting spot against New Zealand and as a result he has gone from strength to strength, making that position his own. Moeen occupied that number six spot before Stokes and was shunted down to eight to accommodate him. Giving Moeen a place to make his own could bring the best out of him.
Where Moeen fits into the side obviously depends on who else plays. With Keaton Jennings and Haseeb Hameed making such a strong start to their careers, you’d assume they’d play next summer against South Africa. Cook isn’t being dropped soon, so a new top 4 of Cook, Hameed, Jennings and Root could be what England go with.
That leaves middle and lower order spots up for grabs for the likes of Moeen, Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Chris Woakes, Jos Buttler and Gary Ballance. Here are a few options for where Moeen could fit in:
Ali was given the number five spot for the Bangladesh series. Had it not been for the failures of Duckett and Ballance he probably would have stayed there. Moeen himself identified number five as his preferred position following the India Test series. Being an all-rounder, batting in this position would allow him time to rest after bowling. Moeen averages 30 at 5 – below his career batting average – but it is a small sample. The main competition for this spot would be Jonny Bairstow, after he batted admirably at five against India.
Number seven is a position that Ali knows well, having batted there ten times in Tests. Batting at seven is statistically Moeen’s best spot, averaging 87 and scoring three hundreds. At number seven you often have to face the second new ball. This plays into the 29-year-old’s skillset, allowing him to bat in his counter-attacking style. With ‘Mo’ at seven, Stokes at six and Bairstow as number five, England could have their most consistent middle to lower order.
Part of the issue with Moeen at eight (and we’ve seen this with Buttler and Stokes too) – bat a guy at number eight and he’ll bat like a #8
— Cricket Fan Bob (@CricketFanBob) 16 January 2016
Number eight is where Moeen has batted the most for England. It is by no means his most profitable position. He is currently only averaging 28 with no hundreds, although the caveat should be made that because he tends to end up batting with the tail, the innings often doesn’t last long enough for the Worcestershire man to construct a ton. Having Moeen at eight would be a luxury and could be done to accommodate another batsman like Jos Buttler at seven.