Moeen Ali spun England to their first Test Match victory since last August as the all-rounder snared a six wicket haul to help the hosts beat India by 266 runs at the Ageas Bowl.
After taking two wickets on the fourth evening, Alastair Cook’s faith in Ali was there for all to see after the Worcestershire man ripped through India’s lower order to back up James Anderson’s fine form with the swinging ball.
The result means the five-match Investec Test series is tied at 1-1 with two games to play so the contest is set-up beautifully ahead of the fourth match at Old Trafford which gets under way next Thursday.
After a dismal winter where they were whitewashed by Australia England followed that up with a 1-0 loss to Sri Lanka before failing to win either of the opening two Tests in the current series but a return to form for their senior players has resulted in a resounding victory.
Cook hit 95 to complement Ian Bell’s first century in almost 12 months while Gary Ballance impressed once again with a fluid century before debutant Jos Buttler plundered 85 to exert England’s dominance.
Anderson then produced his 16th five-wicket haul in the Test arena to help bowl India out whilst trailing England’s mammoth 569-7 declared by 239 runs.
After quick runs by Bell, Ballance and especially Joe Root which was held together by Cook the hosts declared on the cusp of tea to give themselves four sessions to bowl India out but in the end two sessions was more than enough.
In the post-match presentation live on Sky Sports, the England captain gave his reaction to a dominant victory:
“I don’t think it’s ‘relieved’, ‘happy’ is a better word!
“It was a great performance from day one. We pretty much won every session, well we didn’t lose a session, and that’s credit to the guys,” said Cook.
“People stood up. Every single one of the XI who played has contributed to a great win. We wanted to get on the wicket first and bat well, getting 570 was a great start, then we bowled them out, put pressure on them, batted quickly then bowled them out cheaply so yes, it was the perfect game!”
Cook was quick to praise the efforts of his bowlers in particular and especially Ali who ended the game with eight wickets. The all-rounder was brought into the team as a ‘part-time’ off-spinner with his main role to score runs batting at number six but his captain is over the moon with how he is developing.
“His bowling has come on leaps and bounds from the beginning of the summer. He’s worked really hard on it with the guys in the nets, telling him about the lines to bowl, which are a bit different in international cricket.
“He’s responded incredibly well and on a spinning wicket to get six-for to win the game you couldn’t ask for any more.”
The public couldn’t ask any more from their captain either after a superb 95 in the first innings which was backed up by 70 not out to help set-up the declaration. However, his captaincy on the field was arguably even more pleasing with the rotation of his bowlers key in picking up wickets at regular intervals and he admits he feels in a good place.
“I said at Lord’s that I thought my game was heading back in the right direction and with a 10 and a 20 it’s probably a strange thing to say but to back it up I was incredibly pleased,” he said.
“I was frustrated not to get a hundred in the first-innings but I’ll take 160 runs in a game.”
The support at Hampshire was also highlighted by the 29-year-old who paid tribute to the fans on the south coast .
“It was obviously a tough Test match with it being on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays when we don’t usually play but the support, especially walking out on Sunday, I’ll never forget the reception I got walking off at lunch.
“I want to thank Southampton. It’s been a fantastic week.”