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Ryan Bailey at The Oval
June 1, 2014
Worcestershire 329 for 4 (Moeen 138*, Mitchell 62) v Surrey
Ultimately, it was nothing more than a perfunctory publicity deed but a short hop across the capital for the Sri Lankans, when all is said and done, may just prove to be a Sunday afternoon well spent. Their fleeting visit to The Oval for a meet-and-greet session transpired into a far more productive scouting exercise.
While many of the players were preoccupied with off-field duties, Marvan Atapattu - the Sri Lankan coach - will have equally been fixated with proceedings in the middle. After all, there is a good chance, come Thursday week, that his side will encounter Moeen Ali at Lord's.
On the day that another blotch on Monty Panesar's application form appeared, Ali seized the opportunity to etch his name onto Peter Moore's team sheet with an unbeaten century that put his Worcestershire side firmly in the ascendancy of this Division Two fixture. Perhaps only Samit Patel is a persuasive rival now?
It was another reminder to the selectors - if one was required - of his propensity and temperament for the longer format but that has never really been in doubt. If the Worcestershire allrounder is to make that spinner's berth his own, however, there is still work for him to do with the ball in this game. After all, that will be his primary role if England do come calling.
"Of course it would be nice to play for England but I'm not thinking about that," He reaffirmed at the close. "I'd do any job they ask me to do, I'd bat at No 11 if needs be. But I've shown I can excel at both disciplines for Worcestershire over the past few years so there is no reason why not.
"I'm just taking one day at a time, helping Worcester win and hopefully get promotion. If I don't get selected it doesn't worry me as I'll just play for Worcester and I'm happy doing that. There are some good players out there playing well so I'm easy to be honest."
Naturally, Surrey produced a pitch - tinged with green - that would go someway to nullifying the threat of Worcestershire's slower bowlers; not least Saeed Ajmal. However, that ploy afforded the Worcestershire batsmen - after Daryl Mitchell had no hesitation to bat first under clear blue skies - the luxury of playing freely on an otherwise sterile surface against an attack with little strength in depth.
That said, nothing can be taken from the way Worcestershire went about their business from the outset. Michael Pardoe set the tone with a brisk fifty - his first of the season - until gifting his wicket to Gareth Batty: an ugly heave across the line resulted in his downfall. Moeen took up the baton thereafter.
He was perfectly poised from the moment he arrived in the middle and played with all the panache and swagger of a Test wannabe. He launched three sixes off Batty to get himself up and running before lunch as he and Mitchell formed an unshakeable alliance.
Both were rarely troubled despite Gary Wilson's best efforts to rotate his bowlers, more in necessity than choice. Jade Dernbach and Chris Tremlett bowled well in spurts but never found any sort of consistent line and length on a surface that proved to be a batsman's paradise.
Tremlett returned after lunch to have Mitchell - Division Two's highest rungetter this term - bowled shouldering arms for 65 but that was as good as it got for Surrey until late in the day. Having raced into the 40s, Moeen was forced to be patient and watchful in the afternoon as Surrey rallied but it proved only to be a temporary reprieve. Once he passed fifty, Moeen accelerated through the gears and looked unmoveable.
A couple of wickets with the new ball saw Surrey haul themselves somewhat back into the contest but this was Moeen's day: he finished with a towering six into the pavilion
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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