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World Cup T20: Moeen Ali rides a wave of form after starring in England’s rout of the West Indies

As Moeen Ali raced back the long distance Saturday night, gazing skyward for Evin Lewis’s failed exit versus Chris Woakes, there was time for many thoughts to fill his mind.

Chief among them, presumably, was: don’t drop it.

The narrative of a difficult year seemed to demand just that. But Ali held on superbly, setting the tone for a flawless performance on the England field.

Moeen Ali was named man of the match when England beat the West Indies by six wickets on Saturday.

Moeen Ali was named man of the match when England beat the West Indies by six wickets on Saturday.

Soon, his breaks were eliminating Lendl Simmons and Shimron Hetmyer en route to one of his best T20 spells.

If Adil Rashid attracted attention with figures of four by two in a total of 55 from the West Indies, it was Ali who led the way, and Ali who walked away with the prize of the match.

“A catch like that gives you a little confidence,” he said afterward. I think it calmed my nerves.

And the nerves were understandable, even for a player whose religious faith keeps his cricket in perspective and helped him weather the fall midway through England’s successful 50-year World Cup campaign in 2019.

Ali took two wickets for just 17 runs when England dominated the Windies on Saturday

Ali took two wickets for just 17 runs when England dominated the Windies on Saturday

Ali took two wickets for just 17 runs when England dominated the Windies on Saturday

The off-roader took a brilliant catch to fire West Indies starter Evin Lewis in the second over

The off-roader took a brilliant catch to fire West Indies starter Evin Lewis in the second over

The off-roader took a brilliant catch to fire West Indies starter Evin Lewis in the second over

Ali's 2-17 numbers were the cheapest bowling period in his international career.

Ali's 2-17 numbers were the cheapest bowling period in his international career.

Ali’s 2-17 numbers were the cheapest bowling period in his international career.

The more recent events might have eaten away a less level-headed soul as well.

Earlier this year, his Sri Lankan tour was ruined by a positive Covid result, and shortly thereafter a miscommunication from Joe Root gave the impression that Ali wanted to leave the Test series in India.

In fact, he was simply lounging and rotating out of the party, per pre-tour plans.

When Ali returned, Eoin Morgan completely ignored him for the five-game Twenty20 series.

Eoin Morgan knocked Ali out of the five-game T20 series against India earlier this year.

Eoin Morgan knocked Ali out of the five-game T20 series against India earlier this year.

Eoin Morgan knocked Ali out of the five-game T20 series against India earlier this year.

Behind the scenes, Ali’s faith in his captain was wavering. Then came his withdrawal from the Test and the general agreement that it had been exciting, infuriating, and probably unsatisfied.

But he enjoyed an uplifting moment in the IPL and played a big role in the final when the Chennai Super Kings beat Morgan’s Kolkata Knight Riders.

He joined his England teammates with a jump in his stride.

On Saturday, for the first time in his career in England, Ali pitched unchanged from the first over and finished two-for-17, his most economical four-over spell.

Since then, Ali has returned to the fold and was a crucial factor in England's dominant victory on Saturday.

Since then, Ali has returned to the fold and was a crucial factor in England's dominant victory on Saturday.

Since then, Ali has returned to the fold and was a crucial factor in England’s dominant victory on Saturday.

For a player who in 2020 would come out regularly after six balls, it was a significant advance.

“He’s on top of a wave right now,” England head coach Chris Silverwood said.

He is having fun. He sees real purpose in what he’s doing and sees how he fits into that team. Whenever he’s in that position, he’s a very dangerous character.

“ In the locker room he adds a lot of value: the knowledge he has through cricket, but he is also very good at bringing people together, which is an important cog at the wheel.

England coach Craig Silverwood thinks Ali is 'on top of a wave' in good shape

England coach Craig Silverwood thinks Ali is 'on top of a wave' in good shape

England coach Craig Silverwood thinks Ali is ‘on top of a wave’ in good shape

Silverwood and Morgan (right) believe Ali can play an important role in slow pitches in the Middle East.

Silverwood and Morgan (right) believe Ali can play an important role in slow pitches in the Middle East.

Silverwood and Morgan (right) believe Ali can play an important role in slow pitches in the Middle East.

‘With the way he is, the character in him is coming to light. It’s great to see him, it’s a lot of fun to have him around, but we’re seeing that fun on the field as well, so we have to try to keep him in that position. ‘

A few months ago, there was talk that Liam Livingstone might be beating Ali.

Now in the slow fields of the Middle East, and with Livingstone suffering a bit of a slump after his high-voltage summer, it’s clear that Ali is an integral part of England’s multi-front bowling lineup.

“We watched the IPL very closely, how the wickets behaved, how you adapt to the conditions,” Silverwood said.

Liam Livingstone was touted as a possible replacement for Ali earlier this year.

Liam Livingstone was touted as a possible replacement for Ali earlier this year.

Liam Livingstone was touted as a possible replacement for Ali earlier this year.

“We have variations in the attack: left arm, right arm, turn, rhythm, whatever, we have everything we need to cover any eventuality.”

Mark Wood missed the West Indies demolition due to his troublesome left ankle.

And while Silverwood played down the concerns, he is unlikely to take a chance against Bangladesh in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

But unlike the current test squad, England’s T20 group is not solely reliant on Wood for pace, and Silverwood described the prospect of teaming him up with fast left arm Tymal Mills as “exciting.”

Silverwood described left-arm closer Tymal Mills as an 'exciting option' for England.

Silverwood described left-arm closer Tymal Mills as an 'exciting option' for England.

Silverwood described left-arm closer Tymal Mills as an ‘exciting option’ for England.

“You can see that once the pace picks up, people do weird things,” he said after Mills took over for Chris Gayle and Nicholas Pooran.

Pace does that to people. Having someone with that ability, and also from the angle of the left arm, is a huge advantage for us. ‘

So is a cheerful and committed Moeen Ali. At 34, he may not have been gone long in international cricket. But the first signs in the UAE are that he’s eager to make the most of it.

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