Moeen Munir Ali
June 18, 1987, Birmingham
Left hand Bat
Right arm Offbreak
Moeen Ali was tipped for the top long before he won his Test debut at the start of 2014. But, after building a reputation as an elegant batter, it was his offspin bowling that earned him the call-up when England were left reeling from the surprise retirement of Graeme Swann.
While many critics dismissed him as a "part-time" bowler, Moeen had a record to compare with the best in county cricket over recent seasons. And while he suffered more than his share of ups and downs, for the next five years he manfully carried the load in one of the most under-resourced areas of the English game. When he was dropped during the 2019 Ashes, subsequently losing his central contract, it turned out to be the beginning of the end for Moeen as a Test allrounder; nevertheless, on calling time in 2021, he finished just shy of 3000 Test runs and 200 wickets, making him England's third most-prolific spinner of all time.
He was also a 50-over World Cup winner, as well as a regular at the IPL - his flair for fast scoring and utility as an allrounder encouraging the decision to focus solely on white-ball cricket ahead of the T20 World Cup in the UAE. Moeen admitted that he felt his batting had been "wasted" in Test cricket, where he featured everywhere from No. 1 to No. 9, but there will still moments to treasure, from an unbeaten hundred in his second Test to four centuries in the calendar year in 2016.
He also managed a Test hat-trick, against South Africa at The Oval in 2017, during a series in which he took 25 wickets and scored 252 runs, and played a significant part in England winning the 2015 Ashes, as well as the 3-0 whitewash of Sri Lanka in 2018-19. A measure of his abilities as a Test bowler were his six dismissals of Virat Kohli - the last of which, in what turned out to be Moeen's final match, took him past Jim Laker's 193 Test dismissals.
It was his batting that stood out during his early Test appearances. His outstanding 108 not out, spread over 6-and-a-half hours and 281 balls, against Sri Lanka at Headingley took England to within two balls of saving the series but, while he did unveil the first doosra bowled by an Englishman in a Test - developed after consulting Saeed Ajmal at Worcestershire - he initially struggled to offer his captain the requisite control in the field with his bowling.
That changed in training for the Lord's Test against India. Encouraged by team-mate Ian Bell over the need to bowl quicker to survive in international cricket, Moeen benefited from a chance conversation from former Test offspinner Kumar Dharmasena, an umpire in the series and an onlooker at an England training session, who provided technical advice as to how to achieve the extra pace without losing any flight. It was to prove a pivotal meeting. Moeen was tighter at Lord's, devastating in Southampton and excellent at Old Trafford as he finished the series with 19 wickets; the fourth-highest haul any spinner had claimed against India in a Test series outside the subcontinent.
Moeen had already made ODI and T20I debuts in the West Indies, before playing all four of England's games at the 2014 World T20. And while he struggled to recapture his batting form after that maiden century in Tests, he took his chance when promoted to the top of the order in the ODI side by hitting a 72-ball century in Colombo and ended the year a regular in all formats.
Part of the team that failed abysmally at the 2015 World Cup, Moeen was also a key member of the revolution under Eoin Morgan, usually batting at No. 7 - from where he thrashed a 53-ball hundred against West Indies in 2017 - and providing spin back-up to his friend Adil Rashid. His captaincy skills also came to the fore, helping Worcestershire to secure a maiden T20 title and guiding Birmingham Phoenix into the final of the inaugural Hundred. In 2020, he became the first British Asian to captain England in a T20I.
He had looked destined for such success for some time. Signed by Warwickshire as a 15-year-old, he made a century on first-class debut against Cambridge MCCU (he remains the second-youngest man to score a first-class half-century for the club) and Championship debut against Nottinghamshire but was dropped for the next game on both occasions. He also captained England Under-19s to the semi-final of the 2006 World Cup, blasted a 56-ball century in an U19 Test against Sri Lanka and, as a 14-year-old, smashed 195 not out in a Twenty20 match for his under-15 club side Moseley Ashfield. The next highest score was 11.
But, frustrated by a lack of opportunity at Warwickshire during Mark Greatbatch's ill-fated reign as coach of the club, he left for local rivals Worcestershire at the end of 2006 and was a key part of the team that won the Pro-40 title in 2007. It included a 46-ball century against Northants in 2007; there had, at the time, been only one faster List A century made in England in matches involving two first-class counties.
There were setbacks. Trying to combat a tendency to nick off, he went through a period of batting like Shivnarine Chanderpaul and then a spell of leaving balls that hit his off stump instead. But he made 1270 runs in 2010 and 1375 runs in 2013 - the year he won the PCA's Most Valuable Player award - as he augmented his flair with increased discipline. All the while, his offspin continued to improve.
Moeen's development had a significance beyond the playing field. Taking on the mantle of role model for fellow British Asians - a sector of society that county cricket has not always encouraged as it might have done - he also talked eloquently of his Muslim faith and grew perhaps the most noticeable beard in English cricket since the days of WG Grace. He became known fondly as "the beard that's feared" at New Road.
Batting & Fielding