Moeen feels he has let England down

Moeen Ali had a long bat but didn't bowl during England's net session Getty Images

Moeen Ali feels he has "let down the team and the captain" with his bowling in the first couple of Ashes Tests.

Moeen, who has struggled with a finger injury throughout the series, has claimed only two wickets in the first two games. And with the Australian off-spinner, Nathan Lyon, both threatening and offering his captain control, Moeen has suffered by comparison. To rub salt in the wound, Lyon has dismissed Moeen in all four innings in the series to date.

Moeen's problems started within the first few days of the tour. After sustaining a side strain in training, he was unable to play in the first couple of warm-up games and, as a consequence, came into the first Test both lacking rhythm and having failed to harden his spinning finger sufficiently after a lengthy rest at the end of the English season.

That meant he cut his finger within minutes of starting to bowl in the first Test - he feels the Kookuburra ball has a sharper seam and he was brought into the attack after just eight overs when that seam was still proud and hard - and has been inconvenienced by the injury ever since.

While Moeen will captain the England side playing a two-day warm-up match against a CA XI over the weekend - the only man from the Adelaide Test team to appear in the match - he will not bowl. Although he accepts he could do with the overs, he also feels the finger requires more rest if he is to have a chance of bowling pain-free in Perth. He's heard all the theories about soaking his hands in everything from olive oil to urine - "That cannot be right," he says of the latter, "I think it's a myth" - but at this point he is just allowing time to heal.

As a result, he will play the warm-up game as a specialist batsman in a bid to both find some form - he scored only 27 in the Adelaide Test - and acclimatise to conditions in Perth. Although the pitch at Richardson Park (the venue for the warm-up game) is not expected to offer as much bounce as the Test surface at the WACA, it is still expected to be fast by English standards. The hot weather in Perth also promises to be a challenge.

While he has tended to play down the extent of the injury - "I don't want to make excuses," he says, "I haven't bowled great," - he does admit, when pressed, that it has "probably played a part" in his underperformance. "I couldn't feel the ball in my fingers during the first Test, he says. "It was really sore. And at the end of the second, it ripped again.

"I've always said 'it's just a game of cricket.' But the only time I feel pressure is when I feel I've let the team down"

"I need to bowl but I don't want it to rip again. It's much better but in the second innings in Adelaide it started to rip again. So I'm not going to bowl. I'm going to let it heal more.

"You feel like you've let the team down and the captain down especially. Lyon is bowling so well. So you end up comparing yourself to him and then you try even harder. And he's got me out four times

"I've always said 'it's just a game of cricket.' But the only time I feel pressure is when I feel I've let the team down. That is the only thing.

Moeen was man of the series against South Africa. He took 25 wickets at 15.64 in the four-Test series and scored decent runs at Old Trafford and Lord's, but he never assumed that further success was inevitable.

"I knew when everything was going well in the summer that there would be a time when things didn't go so well," he said. "I think this just shows where I am as a cricketer and a spinner.

"I was picked as a second spinner, ended up No. 1 and now I've come here and not bowled well. I just feel there's a lot of work to be done with my bowling. It needs to get better. I believe I can turn it around."

Moeen's innate modesty is usually a fine quality. Coming out to bat in the first Test, he was greeted by David Warner telling him he was batting a place too high at No. 6. He defused any tension, however, by replying "I'm two places too high, mate." Warner, wrong-footed by a brand of self-deprecation with which you suspect he is not familiar, was silenced. Momentarily, at least.

But there are times when you wonder if the modesty betrays a genuine lack of confidence. With the ball, in particular. Certainly he has always said he prefers to play as part of a two-man spin attack and it was noticeable that perhaps his finest performance to date - the 10-wicket match against South Africa at Lord's - came after the England management made it very clear that Liam Dawson was the side's No. 1 spinner.

With Ben Stokes unavailable, however, England are struggling to find any balanced side that can contain two spinners in this series. While they might have been able to find room for a spinner who could bat - the likes of Samit Patel or Adil Rashid should surely have been included in this squad once the selectors knew Stokes was likely to be unavailable - it is hard to find room for Mason Crane or Jack Leach without either weakening the seam bowling or the batting. So Moeen has to bowl and he has to bowl better.

At least he is not shocked by the intensity of the series. While Joe Root compared his first Ashes tour experience as akin to "stepping into a conservatory door," Moeen says it has "not been as intense as I thought it would be."

And while he says there has been a fair amount of "chirp" on the field, he does not feel any of the sledging aimed at him in this series has been inappropriate or unusual, even if one comment from a spectator - "somebody asked me when my kebab shop opened" - may well have overstepped the mark. The generous interpretation might be they knew of Moeen's ambition to open a chip shop - 'Big Mo's' - after his playing career.

"I thought Brisbane would have a lot more of a buzz," he says. "It has been pretty quiet to be honest. There's been some chirp. Nothing very funny or original. And both sides have done it.

"I don't say anything back. With kids watching at home, I don't want to let them down. I just get on with my game. It doesn't bother me at all."

Few players trained on Friday. While a couple of Australian newspapers raised eyebrows at England taking a break after Adelaide ('They have this cricket lark sorted,' was the gist of it, 'so they don't need to train'), the team management reasoned that a mental and physical break from the game would serve them best. Most of the Test squad will train only once over the weekend, too.

The last time England were here in an Ashes series - both literally and metaphorically - the squad was miserable and divided. Towards the end of the series, they underwent a legendarily grim fitness session that resulted only in injuring Boyd Rankin who was then too intimidated by Andy Flower (think of Jack Bauer in 24) to inform him he was unfit for the Test that followed.

There will be none of that this time. It remains an upbeat, united squad and it's that spirit - rather than any benefits that might be gained by another net session in a career that must have already included thousands - that will give them their best hope of achieving a miraculous comeback in the coming days.