The case of Moeen Ali in T20s: Top order or don’t pick at all? | A look at why Moeen Ali performs so much better up the order in T20s
Teams always emphasise on the versatility factor in T20 cricket. Batters need to be flexible with their positions in the batting order but then there are some exceptions like Moeen Ali who seem to find their comfort zone when given a specific role.
Moeen is one of those strokemakers who has always liked to bat higher up the order; that’s where he has played his best cricket in the shortest version of the game. Numbers too suggest the same story.
There’s a big difference when Moeen bats in the top 4 and when he bats below that number. Ali is a very specific sort of player who likes taking responsibility in his own way at a particular position in the batting line-up. The clarity of role becomes very important for a player like Moeen as players like him are hugely undervalued in the current T20 environment. So let’s get into the finer details to understand why Moeen enjoys batting at the top.
Note- Only franchise cricket data has been included and the analysis has been done only based on that.
Comparative study of Moeen’s game:
If you check his numbers in the top 4 while playing in the different T20 leagues around the globe, Moeen’s game goes to another level. An average of close to 32 is not bad considering his strike rate of 158. The format weighs more on the impact which is in correlation with the strike rate of the batsman. The sample size is considerable with over 50 innings played at the top.
On the other hand, when he bats below 5, the sample size is small and that’s because he has played most of the T20 games for Worcestershire in the top 4. In 16 innings, his average drops from 31.8 to 13.6.
Why is there a difference?
Moeen Ali is one of those batsmen who takes a bit of time before launching himself on the opposition. He can do this only when he gets in early. When coming in at 5, 6 or 7, he has to play that finisher kind of role which he’s not comfortable doing in this form of the game.
Innings progression of Moeen Ali when he bats in top 4:
As a top-order player, batsmen always want to maximize the field restrictions to the fullest in the powerplay overs. Moeen’s strike rate of 140 in the powerplay with an average of 33.8 is decent for any batter. The boundary-runs percentage is quite high (73.3) which says he makes full use of the field restrictions in the first six overs. Whenever he gets a ball in his zone, he doesn’t hesitate a bit to go after it, which is one quality of him that makes him a dangerous player at the top.
While the strike rate is high, there’s something he’ll need to work on and that’s the number of dot balls he plays at the start. But that’s the nature of his game, he first assesses the conditions and then he starts playing his shots. This is a key reason why he is much more comfortable batting at the top.
- Boundary % by balls in PP batting at top 4: 22.9%
- Dot ball % in PP while batting at top 4: 44.2%
- Boundary runs % in PP batting at top 4: 73.3%
When he gets through the first six overs, he’s the middle order enforcer any T20 team in the world would want to have. A strike rate of 172.9 is ridiculously good in a phase where the bowling team looks to dry up the runs. For that very purpose, spinners come into the act. This happens when he bats in the top 4. Every team nowadays has at least one ace spinner in their eleven as a controlling option or wicket-taking option. Moeen inarguably is one of the best players of spin in the form of the game. He hits spin, and he hits it hard. Players like him can really set the ideal platform for the designated finishers to come and launch from the very first ball.
Innings progression of Moeen Ali when dropped below 4:
Now when you push him below 4 and if he comes early in the powerplay then the sample size is very small to make anything out of that with only 1 innings he batted in. In the middle overs, he has faced only 49 deliveries, scoring at 153.1, but there’s a striking difference in the average which comes down to 12.5.
Death Overs comparison (Top 4 vs Below 4):
In the slog overs Moeen’s strike rate goes up to above 250, although he has hardly batted in this phase of the game with experience of only 38 deliveries. This stat tells us that once Moeen bats for a longer period of time he has that gear to strike big at the end.
Below five, in the last few overs, Moeen’s numbers are pretty ordinary to say the least, with the strike rate going down from 260 to 150 while batting below number 4.
|Batting Position||Runs||Balls||Average||Strike Rate|
Why Moeen shouldn’t be dropped below number 4 in T20 cricket
Generally whenever a batsman bats in 5, 6 or 7 he prepares himself to play a fewer number of balls and create a bigger impact. With the help of the innings progression chart, one can see that Moeen is a slow starter who takes his own time to get going. His style of play won’t give him the desired results in the lower middle order.
It’s been proven how strong a player Moeen is against the slower bowlers, but in the death overs rarely do spinners come on to bowl. Fast bowlers take charge and that’s where Moeen’s weakness against the short pitch bowling might get exposed.
Pacers now have formulated a number of plans to counter him. Two plans which work well against him are the use of the short ball and bowling the balls in the blockhole. Against bouncers his struggle is inevitable. Too regularly he turns his head and eyes away from the ball at impact, retaining little control over the shot, hence the ball regularly flies off the edge off his bat into no man’s land.
Also, the high back-lift makes it harder for Moeen to jam his bat down on the full delivery. Bowling a full one after a short one is a classic fast bowler one-two, and it is not at all unusual for batsmen to struggle against it. So it concludes that if teams are looking at Moeen as their finisher then probably he’s not the best choice for that role whereas if given a chance in the top order Moeen certainly would be more impactful.