Ali’s ton steadies England
Moeen Ali’s fine century helped England recover to post 328 on an entertaining opening day in the final Test against Pakistan at The Oval Thursday.
Dropped on nine and 15, Moeen made 108, Jonny Bairstow 55 and Chris Woakes 45 as England rallied from 110 for 5.
Sohail Khan claimed 5 for 68 and Wahab Riaz 3 for 93 for Pakistan, who must win to draw the four-match series 2-2.
They lost Sami Aslam in reaching 3-1 in the three overs possible before the close, trailing by 325.
Stuart Broad’s late strike, allied to a last-wicket stand of 32 between Moeen and James Anderson, gave England the edge after a day that saw 331 runs scored at a rate of more than four an over.
If Bairstow initiated England’s recovery from 70-4 and Woakes supplied impetus in a partnership of 73 for the sixth wicket, Moeen combined the best elements of both innings en route to a third Test century.
His place in the side has been questioned this summer, but the all-rounder underlined his worth with a 140-ball century high on class and no little character.
Struck on the helmet first ball by a Wahab bouncer, he capitalised on his early reprieves to hit 13 fours, scoring freely through and over the leg side as he used his feet to good effect against the spinners.
Debutant Iftikhar Ahmed was hoisted over mid-wicket for six and, with number 11 Anderson for company, Moeen repeated the feat off Yasir Shah to reach three figures and bring teammates and spectators to their feet.
Even the timing of Moeen’s dismissal – caught off a top-edged pull off Sohail in the final half-hour of play – worked in the favour of England’s bowlers.
Wahab was the chief architect in England’s top-order collapse, having Joe Root and James Vince caught behind playing off the back foot in the space of three balls before locating Gary Ballance’s edge after lunch.
Opener Alex Hales had earlier fallen to a controversial catch by Yasir at square-leg, given out by the third umpire despite an apparent lack of conclusive evidence that the ball had carried, while captain Alastair Cook played on for 35 attempting to pull Sohail.
Hales, Vince and Ballance managed 15 runs between them, doing little to settle the debate over their long-term England future.
Of the nine hundreds England have scored in 2016, four have been made from number seven, two from number six and only three from the top five combined.
Bairstow batted with typical energy as he and Moeen led the England counter-attack, before Woakes struck eight fours in his 57-ball 45.
Although Sohail had Woakes caught behind despite a review, and trapped Broad lbw in the same over, Moeen and Anderson’s last-wicket alliance lifted England even before their success with the ball.