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Ali: I never dreamt I'd earn spot in England's 100 club

Special day: Moeen Ali will play in his 100th ODI for England
Special day: Moeen Ali will play in his 100th ODI for England

By Rory Dollard

Moeen Ali never expected to join England's hundred club but will bring up a century of one-day internationals in today's World Cup clash against Sri Lanka.

Moeen made his debut in Antigua five years ago, as a spin-bowling opening batsman, and is still going strong.

The role may have changed, settling at No.7 in the order and relying more heavily than ever on his steady off-breaks, but he will be just the 22nd Englishman to bring up the landmark.

"It means a lot, to play 100 ODI games for England. I never, ever thought in my wildest dreams I would get close to it," he said. "It's an amazing feeling. To see the team we are now, looking back if I was to retire I'd always be able to say I was part of that change, the whole mindset changing and the great cricket we've played."

Victory for England would make it five out of six for the tournament hosts and give them an iron grip on a semi-final spot.

They are currently joined in the top four by Australia, India and New Zealand and it is becoming increasingly likely that they will be the sides to contest the knockout phase.

Moeen accepted that was both the likeliest outcome and a fair reflection of the competition to date, but cautioned against taking any contest for granted.

"At the moment the top four are there for a reason, because they're probably playing the best cricket and playing the most consistently," he said.

"There's still a lot of games to go but it looks like that could be the top four. But anything can happen, we know that, I'm sure teams like Bangladesh will have something to say about it. They're playing really good cricket and are a very dangerous side.

"Sri Lanka are also a big threat as you saw against Australia, they were playing very well and probably could have won."

Injured opener Jason Roy was present at England's final training session at Headingley but has already been ruled out of the match as he continues to recover from a hamstring tear.

At one stage he broke from walking laps of the ground to face some balls in a side net but was quickly advised against by medical staff.

In his absence James Vince will continue to open, still looking for a statement performance in ODI cricket.

"It's been very difficult for him. He's always come in knowing he's probably not going to be there for longer than two games, maybe even one," said Moeen.

"I'd probably just say to him, not the cliche of 'express yourself', but just go out like you're going to play all the games and make the most of it. You're playing a World Cup in England, we're probably never going to do it again.

"Don't get too caught up in trying to make sure you have to score a hundred or think you have to score runs. They will come - he's such a good player that those runs will come if he just almost enjoys it rather than thinking it's always a test."

Eoin Morgan, meanwhile, might have just set a new world record for sixes but friendly ribbing from the dressing room is driving all of England's big hitters to go harder, better, faster and stronger.

Captain Morgan hammered 17 maximums in his match-winning 148 against Afghanistan, the first batsman to do so in one-day internationals, and won plenty of plaudits from his colleagues.

They did not stay awestruck for long though, with all-rounder Moeen admitting they were quickly measuring up the skipper's knock for speed and his sixes for distance.

Moeen, who cleared the ropes four times in a powerful cameo at No.7 and also boasts England's third fastest ODI century at 53 balls, happily deconstructed the innings alongside the likes of Jos Buttler, Roy, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow.

"We were a bit surprised by Morgy's numbers and we were like, 'That's a lot of sixes', but then I turned round and said 'I hit the biggest one'," Moeen revealed.

"We always talk about stuff like that. Jos came back after scoring a hundred (against Pakistan) and I said, 'Well, I hit the shot of the day'. We have a bit of banter about it.

"When players go past 53 balls I can always say it's a great knock, but still a bit slow for my liking. I'm always hoping they don't push me down the list!

"We're just having a lot of fun and ripping each other all the time. We get stuck into each other about everything, about the football, about playing Fifa, it's all part of team bonding and it is very natural. It is by far the best team I've ever played with."

For all the good-natured one-upmanship, Moeen is forced to admit one player has the others beaten when it comes to pure distance.

"Buttler. With ease," he said. "I think everyone is capable of hitting big sixes, but Jos is the one guy that everyone knows is out front."

Belfast Telegraph


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