Moeen Ali is confident he can cope with an expected short-pitch barrage at the World Cup – starting with Mitchell Johnson on Saturday.
Word has quickly spread around the international scene about the England opener’s perceived weakness against the short ball and he was most recently out fending at a well-aimed Johnson bouncer in the Tri-series final in Perth.
That was the first time Moeen had faced the Australian tearaway, who was rested for most of that tournament. And while he succumbed to Johnson, he believes he has played the short ball well since arriving Down Under.
“There have been times when I’ve been bounced out, especially against India (in the summer) when I didn’t play the short ball very well,” he said.
“But against Australia in the Tri-series I’ve felt like I’ve seen the ball well. Maybe because of the extra pace – there’s something different about facing Australia.
“I just felt that was a good ball (from Johnson). I didn’t feel like it was too quick, it was just right on the money. Before that I was playing him quite well so I’m not too worried about the short ball.
“I’ve been working quite hard on it so I feel like I’m ready to play against Australia on Saturday.”
Moeen was not part of the squad that suffered at the hands of Johnson during last winter’s 5-0 Ashes whitewash, and after his first taste of facing the left-armer he actually felt Mitchell Starc was faster.
The Worcestershire left-hander concedes that after his lay-off Johnson was probably not at his fearsome best at the WACA Ground, but suspects he will still be better off at the MCG for having now seen him first hand.
“I found Mitchell Starc quicker – maybe because it was Johnson’s first game back,” added Moeen.
“Even though I got a good ball I felt I found Starc harder.
“I looked at a lot of (Johnson’s) balls, a lot were cross seam. They always do something a bit more. He’s obviously a top-quality bowler, he’s not just pace, he’s quality as well.
“When I faced him that first over he was back he was tough –but on that day Mitchell Starc was quicker.”
Even if Moeen survives any Australian hostility on Valentine’s Day – and he did club Pat Cummins for a hat-trick of sixes when he was bounced in Hobart – he knows other nations are still likely to test him against the short ball throughout the World Cup.
“Yeah, of course. Ever since I opened the batting in Sri Lanka there were times they kept bouncing me,” he said.
“I feel like I’m getting better at it and as long as I keep working hard at it I’ll be all right.”
It is just under a year since Moeen made his one-day international debut, during last February’s tour of the Caribbean – enough time for his technique to be closely scrutinised by opposition analysts.
He admits he has sensed the pressure of the bowling plans against him but has vowed to maintain the attacking approach that persuaded the England selectors pick him to open at a World Cup.
“I’ve felt it, even in the first game (of the Tri-series) when I was caught deep against Australia, that’s a very rare situation to have a deep cover out,” he said.
“So I do feel like that. But I don’t feel it’s going to stop me, I’ve just got to get better at it – which ball I’ll go for.
“It’s a bit harder but I don’t think it will stop me from playing my shots. I still feel like I need to play that way for England.”
That philosophy followed lessons learned in the summer, when Moeen’s thinking was not completely clear on how to play the short ball when India first tested him during the Test series.
“Yeah, 100 per cent. I wasn’t sure whether to take it on,” he admitted.
“I changed the style of my play, which was probably the biggest mistake I made. I’ve never had an issue before, it’s just international cricket is different, better quality.
“It’s not something I worry about. As long as I feel I’m getting better I can improve it.”
Matt Machan and Alasdair Evans did most of the damage as Scotland recorded a crushing 179-run victory over Ireland in their World Cup warm-up in Sydney.
Machan helped Scotland run up an imposing 296-6 batting first with a super century, the 23-year-old Sussex player scoring 103 off 108 deliveries with four sixes and six fours at Blacktown Olympic Park Oval.
Preston Mommsen (56) and Richie Berrington (52) were also among the runs. Seamer Evans (4-17) then shone with the ball as Ireland were shot out for 117 in reply after being 57 without loss.