Headingley Verdict - Day Four: Magnificent Moeen digs England out of trouble as West Indies toil

'MORE brains in a pork pie,' bemoaned Geoffrey Boycott.

England's Moeen Ali reaches his half century during day four at Headingley. Picture: Nigel French/PA

“A ridiculous shot,” declared Michael Vaughan.

Jonny Bairstow had just tried to reverse-sweep off-spinner Roston Chase and been bowled off an inside-edge, a risky stroke in the context of the match.

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If left England 327-7 in their second innings – effectively 158-7 – and the game seemed to be going in the West Indies’ favour.

But then came Moeen Ali.

Over the course of the next two hours, as Moeen rescued England from a sticky situation, the frustration in the Test Match Special commentary box high up in the Carnegie Pavilion was replaced by admiration as the pendulum of power swung back towards the hosts.

Moeen was magnificent, scoring 84 from 93 balls as he helped to lift the lead from 158 to 275 before he was eighth out at 444.

“The curse of the quadruple Nelson”, quipped former England all-rounder Vic Marks, another TMS stalwart, adding that Headingley had witnessed Moeen at his “skittish best”, proving why he is “a much-loved cricketer, a joy to watch”.

England's Moeen Ali sweeps during day four against West Indies at Headingley. Picture: Nigel French/PA.

By the time a fluctuating fourth day was done, watched by a crowd of 8,073, the West Indies were 5-0 in their second innings in pursuit of 322 after England declared on 490-8, Chris Woakes finishing unbeaten on 61 after an eighth-wicket stand of 117 with Moeen in 23 overs.

Only Australia have made a higher total to win a Headingley Test (404-3 in 1948), and they had a bloke called Bradman in their side.

Bairstow’s dismissal, which ended a hitherto stylish cameo, was the last of three wickets for 24 runs in 40 balls as England slipped from 303-4 – effectively 134-4 – straight after the afternoon drinks break.

Ben Stokes lofted the first ball after that break from Chase into the hands of long-off, departing for a fine 58 to follow his first-innings hundred.

Jonny Bairstow is bowled by West Indies' Roston Chase after a reverse sweep shot went wrong on day four at Headingley. Picture: Nigel French/PA

It was a strange dismissal, Stokes over-reaching for a ball that he might even have been trying to hit along the ground, and it opened a door for the West Indies, who struck again in Chase’s next over when Dawid Malan was bowled by one that turned sharply.

While Stokes and Malan were in the throes of a 91-run stand, England looked comfortable and the West Indies were starting to look a beaten side.

Their heads were low and their body language poor, but having battled their way back, they failed to capitalise.

In fact, the West Indies have been failing to capitalise since day one, when dropped catches off Stokes and Joe Root ended up costing them 142 runs.

England's Moeen Ali sweeps during day four against West Indies at Headingley. Picture: Nigel French/PA.

The pattern has continued throughout, and it is ironic that having improved in the ostensibly more difficult aspects of batting and bowling since their innings defeat in the first Test at Edgbaston, the tourists’ fielding has let them down here and cost them what might have been a series-levelling win inside three days.

Instead, victory is now England’s for the taking, despite having had a first-innings deficit of 169.

Only six times have England overturned a larger deficit to win (two of which involved forfeitures), and it would be the biggest lead that the West Indies have held in a losing cause.

In cloudy conditions, which later gave way to warm sunshine, England resumed on 171-3, just two runs ahead.

Root reached his half-century in the day’s first over with a couple of streaky boundaries through third-man off Kemar Roach, going on to 72 before cutting a ball from Shannon Gabriel that was too close to him into the hands of a juggling Shai Hope at gully.

Root’s departure ended a stand of 118 with Malan, who was dropped in the next over on 32 by Kieran Powell at first slip off Jason Holder, after wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich had dived across in front of him.

Jonny Bairstow is bowled by West Indies' Roston Chase after a reverse sweep shot went wrong on day four at Headingley. Picture: Nigel French/PA

It would have left England 
213-4, effectively 44-4, and Malan and Stokes had lifted the score to 251-4 at lunch, at which point the hosts’ position was rather more secure.

The West Indies could have taken the second new ball at 233-4, but delayed doing so until after the lunch break, whereupon they proceeded to waste it by bowling too wide.

Malan eventually went to his fifty from 162 balls in four hours – an ugly and useful innings rolled into one – and Stokes followed him to the landmark from 92 deliveries with 10 boundaries, including two sumptuous drives off Shannon Gabriel back down the ground.

After Chase’s three-wicket burst reasserted the West Indies’ authority, Moeen dismantled it in company with Woakes, the pair attacking at every opportunity as the tourists’ challenge wilted after tea.

When England were 374-7, Moeen was ‘caught’ behind on 32 off leg-spinner Davendra Bishoo only for a no-ball to be called.

Replays suggested that the bowler’s heel might have been behind the line, a desperately close call very much in keeping with a skittish match.