Moeen Ali has been good with the bat for England low down the order © Getty Images
Moeen Ali has been good with the bat for England low down the order © Getty Images

In the team primarily for his off-spin, Moeen Ali showed class, elegance and temperament as he powered his way to an unbeaten 155 against Sri Lanka in the second Test at Chester-le-Street. With four quick bowlers, England would perhaps not need his services with the ball afterall. Sri Lanka clearly struggled against the pace trio of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steven Finn. Moeen has not played many times at No. 7 for England. He had to come a place up the order due to an injury to Ben Stokes, which ruled him out of this game. However, whenever he has played at No. 7, he has accounted scores of 108 not out, 13 and 155 not out, with both centuries coming against Sri Lanka.  LIVE CRICKET SCORECARD: England vs Sri Lanka, 2nd Test at Chester-le-street

Moeen came in at a time when England were reasonably comfortably placed at 277 for 5. But England needed someone, who could score runs at a quick pace and also bat well with the tail. Moeen has done so on numerous occasions batting at No. 8, and to add to it he found a stable partner in Chris Woakes, who scored 39. Also, Steven Finn at No. 10, gave Moeen good support as he made his way to a 37-ball 10. Courtesy of Moeen’s innings, England perhaps do not need to bat again in this match.

Moeen, who by no stretch of imagination is a tailender has often played some handy knocks down the order. He manages to get those 30-35 runs, which turn out to be crucial. He did the same against Australia scoring 58, 38,30 and 35 in his last four innings as England regained The Ashes. He also scored 77 in the first Test at Cardiff to lift his team. READ: England should persist with Moeen Ali and make him bat in the middle-order

He had a decent tour of UAE and South Africa, where he was predominantly used as a bowler, but managed to play a lone hand at Centurion Test as England were thrashed by 280 runs.

Moeen’s excellent show against Sri Lanka in this Test certainly raises the question if he is better batting at this position. But where will Stokes play when he is fit? England selectors have backed Stokes in the longest format and his contribution in the recent past has been immense. The 258 he scored against South Africa was a monumental effort to say the least.

Moeen’s knock will only give England team management a lot of headache once Stokes is fit to play. It is something that the selectors won’t mind, but by playing him a place down, England will perhaps see Moeen score considerably less in the coming matches. Once Stokes is back, it will be Jonny Bairstow, who will bat at No. 7, with Moeen dropping to No. 8. Perhaps Moeen should be given a longer run at No. 7, even after Stokes returns.

It is unlikely that England would want someone of the calibre of Bairstow to bat at No. 8, but he can perhaps be promoted to No. 5 in place of newbie James Vince, to fit Moeen at No. 7. It would not be advisable for England to experiment with their line-up, considering how well they have done in the recent past. But doing so may just enable Moeen to reach his full potential with the bat.

(Pramod Ananth is a reporter at CricketCountry. He has represented Karnataka table tennis under-15, and is a hardcore supporter of Liverpool FC. His Twitter handle is @pramz)