Moeen Ali ready to embrace expectation in Sri Lanka

Moeen Ali had a good day with the ball
Sri Lanka Board XI v England XI, Tour match, Colombo October 05, 2018

England haven't had a full tour of Sri Lanka since 2012, and though for many in their squad the heat and humidity are a fresh experience, Moeen Ali has done it all before - twice.

Moeen was part of England's 2014 seven-ODI tour of the island of course - the tour in which it was England, not Sri Lanka, who had the captaincy crisis, and the poor one-day record, and the terrible run leading up to the following year's World Cup. But even before then, Moeen had had a bite of the island's conditions. Folks at the Moors Sports Club in central Colombo will tell you that in early 2012, Moeen played three three-day matches for the club. He had been pretty good for them too, racking up 335 runs at an average of 67, in addition taking the occasional wicket.

Six years later, a much-improved Moeen is back in Colombo, and he knows he is one of England's key players on tour. As a spin-bowling allrounder, he will be expected to make an impact with the ball as well. If Friday's practice match is any evidence, he appears poised for a decent haul. Moeen claimed 3 for 42 with his offspin, before England sauntered to a 43-run Duckworth-Lewis victory.

"It's always nice to tour somewhere where you think you're going to play a big role - it does give you that extra bit more," he said. "It's never a guarantee that you're going to go well. I've had that experience as well, going to India and stuff. You've got to stay calm about it - can't get too far ahead."

All three of his wickets were high-quality players. First he bowled opener Lahiru Thirimanne, who was in the Sri Lanka Test team last time the toured England. Two balls later, he dismissed the other opener Dimuth Karunaratne, who is the form batsman in Sri Lanka's Test side at present. Then later, he took the wicket of Kusal Mendis, whom he will likely bowl at again in the Tests. Moeen's bowling helped restrict the Board XI to 287 for 9.

"It's good for my own confidence to get a couple of wickets up front against two of their more international type of players," Moeen said of his double-strike in the ninth over of the innings. "It was nice to get them in the Powerplay. These guys are used to these conditions, and they are good players in these conditions. It's not going to be as easy as people think, but as a spinner you do have things in your favour, and that always helps.

"I thought we bowled well as a team to keep them down - it was a very good wicket. It was nice to come out and break that partnership initially and then to get the other guy out. It was good for your confidence."

That Moeen did not get to bat in the first practice match was partly because Joe Root and Eoin Morgan simply did not get out. The two senior batsmen put on 174 for the third wicket to secure an important first victory of the tour, for England. Moeen said he especially enjoyed Morgan's 91 not out off 84 balls.

"He's a fantastic player of spin, and I personally love the way he plays when he plays like this - with intent. It's great to see some of the shots that he played today."

Moeen said there was intent through the whole England performance as well. As the top-ranked ODI side, they wanted to flex their muscles in the first outing on the island.

"As the No. 1 side now, you don't want to come here and start with a loss, especially to a side that's not their main side. The philosophy that Trev and Morg have tried to emphasise is that we need to win these games quite comfortably. As a side you don't want to stumble."

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