Moeen Ali thinks England let themselves down with the bat on Sunday (November 26) at the Gabba when Australia finally took control of a Test match which had been a tight, tense affair on the opening three days. The hosts will resume tomorrow on 114-0, requiring just another 56 runs for victory and a 1-0 series lead.
England had begun the day on 33 for 2 but lost three wickets in the first session, including that of captain Joe Root just before lunch, which put Australia well on top. Despite a brief counter-attack from Moeen and Jonny Bairstow, after the interval, England’s lower order were blown away by the hostility of the home side’s attack, losing their last five wickets for 40 runs. It left Australia with a target of 170 to win, one they were well on their way to reaching by the close.
“The first three days, we were in the game but today we let ourselves down with the bat especially,” Moeen said after play. “We got in but never went on to get the big score that we needed. The wicket was still good. We haven’t got a hundred this game. Tomorrow we are going to have to try and get a few wickets. We won’t win the game but to [try to] get the wickets and put a dent in Australia for the next game.”
Moeen and Bairstow shared a 40-run partnership in 13 overs either side of lunch. It was the tourists’ most fluent partnership of the Test match and Moeen in particular took the game to the excellent Nathan Lyon, something which many of England’s batsmen had failed to do all game. “I think they were under a little bit of pressure,” said Moeen.
“Looking back now, this looks quite easy for them but any sort of lead over 180, 190 is always dangerous. If we could have kept going to 220 and even further that that [it would have been tougher for Australia]. To get out then was very disappointing.”
Moeen’s dismissal, given out stumped off Lyon, was controversial. Replays showed England’s number six had got his foot back on the line – which is of course out – but the line appeared to be thicker on the pitch that it was on the surrounding square which means that Moeen’s foot may have been behind it if the line had been a uniform thickness.
“If I was bowling, I’d want it to be out,” Moeen said. “It depends on the angle you look at it but you have to respect the umpire’s call. You just have to move on. I thought I was all right personally, but the replay did make it look tight. I was disappointed I got out in that fashion but mostly the timing of it. Me and Jonny were building a good partnership. I was over it straight away.”
Lyon, who has picked up six wickets in the match, has out-bowled Moeen during the Gabba Test. England’s off-spinner has been hampered by a ripped spinning finger but admitted that he didn’t bowl well on the fourth evening when his four overs cost 23 runs. In contrast, Lyon has been more accurate and has been able to extract more turn from the surface.
“He’s bowled well,” admitted Moeen. “I would have enjoyed bowling on the first day and a half as well. He’s a very good bowler. He just bowls good areas all the time with good revs and makes you play. I feel when you settle in against him as a batsman you can score.”
England had spoken before the match about trying to avoid defeat at the Gabba – perhaps a negative mindset in itself – but Australia will wrap up a comprehensive victory in the end to extend their unbeaten run in Brisbane to 29 Tests. This has not, though, according to Moeen, been the drubbing which the final margin of victory may suggest. England have had their moments and the off-spinner picked out two crucial opportunities in the which the tourists let slip.
“With the bat, we had a couple of big partnerships but the run out of James Vince [in the first innings] was a big one and when we had them 80 for 4, we never quite got the [next] wicket. Steve Smith was the big difference in both line-ups and without him, they would have struggled to get anywhere near 300. Them two are the big situations in the game that we regret.
“First innings, we got 300 without Cooky and Rooty scoring runs. It’s always difficult to take positives but the new guys in the team played well. Looking forward, we feel Australia are a good side but probably not as good as we make out. We know we can compete and we are going to have to compete very well in the next four games.”