Moeen Ali has taken an innovative approach – and received a few blows in the process – ahead of the belated start to his Ashes preparations as he prepares to take on Australia’s fast bowlers.
Moeen, who returns to the England side for the warm-up match in Townsville having recovered from a side strain which has sidelined him since arriving in Australia, has been using a wet tray and extra bouncy balls in an attempt to replicate the pace and bounce he anticipates he will receive.
“I’ve been doing that recently to exaggerate the pace with the ball coming at you,” Moeen said. “It just sharpens you up.
“It’s a tray and you just wet it. It’s an Indian drill. The balls I bring with me, they’re slightly different. It skims off it. You need a good thrower, which Paul Collingwood is. I’ve been hit before loads of times but the more I’m doing it the better I’m feeling.
“It doesn’t mean you’re going to be the best player of fast bowling it just means you’re probably going to be better than you were.
“I’ve been practising everything to be honest with you as much as I can – pace in general. I almost try and go over the top with it and then hopefully it’ll be a lot easier after that.”
Moeen played a key role in the 2015 Ashes – his lower-order partnerships with Stuart Broad, especially at Edgbaston, giving England crucial late runs – but his technique against the short ball has occasionally been tested when batting higher up the order. With Ben Stokes absent, Moeen is expected to move up a spot to No. 7 where his runs could be even more important.
“Some days I feel like I’m seeing it better. Some days I’m seeing it well but in the past I definitely didn’t have the technique to deal with it. But that’s something I’ve been working on. I am definitely a better player than I was in the 2015 Ashes series. I actually didn’t do that badly in that series but I feel like I’m a much better player than I was then.”
While Moeen was understandably eager to get back to action after watching the first two warm-up matches, he felt that his time on the sidelines was not without its benefits. “It was a bit frustrating not playing but also not a bad thing,” he said. “You get a lot more work done than anybody else.
“Sometimes when you’re playing you don’t get the chance to focus on yourself. Another benefit of not playing those two games is that it makes you hungrier to get out there and be with the guys.
“I’m ready to go now. I can’t wait to put my whites on and start performing, getting a bit of game time in my system and then I’ll be ready to play at the Gabba.”
Australia’s traditional venue for the first Test of their summer is one of the most notorious grounds for visiting teams – no side has won there since West Indies’ fast bowlers ruled the roost in 1988. However, Moeen said he was unconcerned by the reputation of the “Gabbatoir”.
“I’m very excited and looking forward to the atmosphere,” he said. “Australians like to talk a lot, big themselves up. That’s part of the game. It’s not something that I haven’t had before.
“That doesn’t faze me. It’s something you have to block out. You have to focus on your game and the situation that the team is in. I’m just going to come out and play like I always do for England and give it my best shot.”