South Africa v England: Hard work is paying off for spinner Moeen Ali

Moeen Ali says his performance with the ball on day three of the first Test against South Africa at Durban was a step in the right direction.

Englands bowler Stuart Broad, right, celebrates with teammates after bowling South Africas batsman Temba Bavuma, for 10 runs, on the third day in Durban. AP/Themba Hadebe.
Englands bowler Stuart Broad, right, celebrates with teammates after bowling South Africas batsman Temba Bavuma, for 10 runs, on the third day in Durban. AP/Themba Hadebe.

Moeen added the wickets of JP Duminy, Kyle Abbott and Dale Steyn to his dismissal of Faf du Plessis on the second evening to finish with 4-69 as England bowled the hosts out for 214.

It signalled a return to form for the 28-year-old, who managed only nine wickets in three Tests against Pakistan in spin-friendly conditions in the United Arab Emirates.

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“I’ve worked a lot harder since I’ve been here on my bowling and it’s paying off slowly,” Moeen said.

“There’s a long way to go. I’m not going to stand here and say I’m a world-class bowler or anything like that. Today was a good step in the right direction.

“I’ve had to change my action quite a few times compared to when I first started. Even when I’ve bowled well in the past and felt like my action has been quite good, I’ve had to change that as well. It’s mainly being patient and learning about the art of bowling spin. It’s tough but I feel like I’m learning quite a lot. The Pakistanis were the best players I’ve ever bowled against. They never really let me settle. I tried everything out there and nothing really worked.”

At the end of the third day, the South African team looked as though it had suffered some wear and tear.

They closed 261 behind, with England 172-3 in their second innings and piling on the pressure.

Three straightforward drops did not help the South Africa cause, while there are major fitness doubts over pace spearhead Dale Steyn.

He left the field twice in the middle of overs with a shoulder injury and although the news is not as bad as it could be, his participation in the remainder of the game, and the second Test in Cape Town is under a cloud.

“He found the pain and discomfort troublesome but the results of the scans are inconclusive,” said team manager Dr Mohammed Moosajee.

“There are no tears to the muscles, tendons or ligaments and we are treating it as a shoulder spasm or stiffness for now.

“We will trial him in the warm-up and if he gets through that we may allow him to bowl. Further assessment will be done after the first Test before we make a call on Cape Town.”

The hosts were left further frustrated after the third day’s play after the umpires decided to change a ball that had started to reverse swing.

The Proteas thought their luck had come in when Alex Hales smashed Dane Piedt for six against an advertising board, causing damage to the surface of the ball.

Umpire Rod Tucker was initially happy to continue with the original but he and colleague Aleem Dar made the decision to call for a replacement when Hales departed 10 overs later.

South Africa captain Hashim Amla was seen in lengthy conversation with the officials at the time, with Dr Moosajee later seeking clarification from match referee Ranjan Madugalle.

Dr Moosajee said: “The reason I have been given is that when it hit the advertising board, or the LED screen, a chunk of the ball came out.

“Because there was unnatural wear and tear they have the right to change the ball.

“Obviously at first we were not very impressed but they are the match officials and we have to take their word on these kind of things.

“Maybe it was because of an unnatural amount of reverse swing.

“If the match officials make a call, as much as I have my own opinion in it, I have to respect it.”