Sad to see India give wickets away like that: Harbhajan Singh
Moeen Ali picked up five wickets on his return to the England Test team (Getty Images)

The sight of Indian batsmen giving wickets to Moeen Ali has left India spinner Harbhajan Singh unimpressed. Harbhajan, part of the commentary panel, sat comfortably as he watched India make steady progress before they imploded, and was left surprised watching the side slip from the comfort of 142/2, to reach 195/8, with Ali picking up four of those wickets.

In an interview with Times of India, Harbhajan rued the dismissal of India’s batsmen, pointing out that he was expecting better from them.

“It’s sad the way our guys are giving away these wickets. They should have done better than this,” Harbhajan said during the post-tea session. “Those were really poor shots by Ashwin and Pandya. Not just me, they themselves would be disappointed with the shots they have played. If they had given themselves a bit more time, things would have been far easier.”

Harbhajan had a point. India had lost Rishabh Pant for 0 after the batsman had endured 29 painstaking deliveries. Once he left, Hardik Pandya walked down to Ali and dragged the ball to give Joe Root a simple catch at short-mid wicket. Two overs later, R Ashwin fell to an even horrible shot, against the run of play, attempting a reverse sweep, as the ball rolled back onto his stumps.

It was almost as of Ali had turned the clock back to 2014, where he picked up 6/67 against the same opponent at the same venue. He went on to remove Ishant Sharma after a dogged stand between him and Cheteshwar Pujara for his fifth of the innings.

When Ali was called back to the England side for the fourth Test, it would have hardly been any surprise as to who would cause India the most problems with the ball. After frustrating India with a potentially game-turning partnership with Curran on Day 1, Ali celebrated his return to the England team with five wickets, nearly polishing off India’s lower order in the process.

After a disappointing tour of Australia and New Zealand, where Moeen reached the landmark of 50 Test matches, he was dropped for the home series against Pakistan, while legspinner Adil Rashid was picked over him for the first three Tests against India. The allrounder, however, fought his way back with strong performances in county cricket which included a double century and eight wickets in a single game for Worcestershire.

“He varied the pace beautifully and made the batsmen play all the time. The fact that there was a bit of rough outside the off-stump created by Ishant’s footmarks helped his case as well,” Harbhajan said.

The last time India visited England, Ali had taken 19 wickets against them, and crucial ones at that. This time, save for Pujara and Jasprit Bumrah’s defiance, England were looking at an important advantage in the Test match.