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Swashbuckling Moeen Ali goes on the attack to put England in control

By Robert Jones

Moeen Ali decided attack was the best form of defence after his swashbuckling half-century lifted England into a position of dominance against South Africa.

As England limped to 134 for six when their all-rounder walked to the crease on the third afternoon of the final Test, a fourth innings chase of under 300 appeared a distinct possibility on a testing Old Trafford pitch.

But Moeen seems to have ended any hopes the tourists had of securing a series draw after blasting eight fours and three sixes in an unbeaten 67 from 59 balls as England ended a rain-shortened day on 224 for eight and with a lead of 360.

Moeen profited from being dropped at slip on 15 off Keshav Maharaj, who was later on the receiving end of the Worcestershire man's brutal hitting much to the delight of the partisan home crowd.

And it was after that let-off that persuaded him to take the attack to the South African bowlers.

Moeen told Sky Sports Cricket: "I just felt the situation of the game, we needed a bit of momentum and it came off. I had a couple of chances but it was nice to play like that.

"The crowd was going and I thought 'I'm just going to go', and I backed myself and thankfully it paid off."

Moeen went to his half-century with the second of his three sixes off Maharaj, which sailed into the England dressing room and was caught by Jonny Bairstow.

Moeen said: "Jonny absolutely loves it. I saw in the background that (Joe) Rooty was taking the mick out of him."

On a pitch that is offering plenty of assistance to the spinners, Moeen may be expected to have a decisive say on the outcome of the match, but he added: "I'm not getting too carried away."

South Africa have only once chased down a target in excess of 360 in the fourth innings.

And Duanne Olivier pointed out the 414 for four they memorably recorded against Australia in Perth nine years ago when insisting South Africa should not yet be written off.

He said: "If we can bowl them out for 380 or 390, I still believe it's possible. We've done it in the past."


England 362 & 224-8 (66.2 overs): Moeen 67*, Root 49, Olivier 3-38

South Africa 226 (72.1 overs): Bavuma 46, Anderson 4-38

England lead by 360 runs

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