England v Sri Lanka: Moeen Ali is happy to go the distance at Headingley

Eoin Morgan might have just set a new world record for sixes but friendly ribbing from the dressing room is driving all of England’s big hitters to go harder, better, faster and stronger.
Moeen Ali during the nets session at Headingley.Moeen Ali during the nets session at Headingley.
Moeen Ali during the nets session at Headingley.
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Behind the scenes at £45m Emerald Headingley Stadium ahead of England v Sri Lank...

Captain Morgan hammered 17 maximums in his match-winning 148 against Afghanistan, the first batsman to do so in one-day internationals, and won plenty of plaudits from his colleagues.

They did not stay awestruck for long though, with all-rounder Moeen Ali admitting they were quickly measuring up the skipper’s knock for speed and his sixes for distance.

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Moeen, who cleared the ropes four times in a powerful cameo at number seven and also boasts England’s third fastest ODI century at 53 balls, happily deconstructed the innings alongside the likes of Jos Buttler, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow.

“We were a bit surprised by Morgy’s numbers the other day and we were like ‘that’s a lot of sixes’, but then I turned round and said ‘I hit the biggest one’,” Moeen revealed ahead of Friday’s World Cup clash against Sri Lanka at Headingley.

“We always talk about stuff like that. Jos came back after scoring a hundred (against Pakistan) and I said ‘well, I hit the shot of the day’. We have a bit of banter about it.

“When players go past 53 balls I can always say it’s a great knock, but still a bit slow for my liking. I’m always hoping they don’t push me further down the list!

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“We’re just having a lot of fun and ripping each other all the time. We get stuck into each other about everything, about the football, about playing FIFA, it’s all part of team bonding and it is very natural. It is by far the best team I’ve ever played with.”

For all the good-natured one-upmanship, Moeen is forced to admit one player has the others beaten when it comes to pure distance.

“Buttler. With ease,” he said. “I think everyone is capable of hitting big sixes, but Jos is the one guy that everyone knows is out front.”

Moeen will win his 100th cap in Leeds, the 22nd Englishman to reach the milestone, but never imagined reaching such a level of seniority when he debuted as an opening batsman in 2014.

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The role has changed more than once over the years, and he now leans more heavily on his nagging off-breaks than his runs, but he is still going strong in the world’s top-ranked side.

“It obviously means a lot, to play 100 ODI games for England. I never, ever thought in my wildest dreams that I would get close to it,” he said.

“I’m 32 now and I feel it. I’m getting old! In a blink of an eye it has gone so quickly. I never thought I’d be a senior player in a county side let alone the England side.”

Roy has already been ruled out of the match with a torn hamstring but was tempted to hit a few balls in a side net while England trained.

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He was quickly advised to cease by medical staff, and instead completed several laps of the pitch at walking pace.

James Vince will continue to deputise, looking to raise his top score of 51 from his first 11 caps.

“It’s been very difficult for him, I think. He’s always come in knowing he’s probably not going to be there for longer than two games, maybe even one sometimes,” said Moeen.

“I’d probably just say to him...make the most of it. You’re playing a World Cup in England, we’re probably never going to do it again.

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“Don’t get too caught up in trying to make sure you have to score a hundred or think you have to score runs. They will come – he’s such a good player that those runs will definitely come if he just almost enjoys it rather than thinking it’s always a test.”

Liam Plunkett and Tom Curran could be in line for recalls should England choose to rest one or both of Mark Wood and Chris Woakes.

David Warner showed flashes of his belligerent best with 166 from 147 balls as Australia moved to the top of the World Cup standings with a 48-run victory over Bangladesh.

Dropped on 10 in an innings containing 14 fours and five sixes, Warner’s stands of 121 and 192 with Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja respectively formed the backbone of Australia’s 381-5 at Trent Bridge, Bangladesh replying with 333-8.