Without revealing much, Mooen Ali has said that England have plans to stop Virat Kohli. It’s a nothing quote really, just that they will stifle the runs and hope the pressure brings about the wicket. But one wonders, whether deep inside, he does harbour hopes of taking down Kohli on his own. Because he has done it in the past.
Moeen has clean-bowled Kohli in the past, even in Tests, with his big-turning loopy off-breaks. Kohli has tried the cover drive on his stretched front-foot and was bowled once in a Test in Chennai.
And in May this year, since the ball had been turning decently on the Pune surface, Kohli tried to wrist it with the turn to the onside. But he missed it completely. It spun in sharply from outside off-stump to go through the bat-pad gap and disturb the furniture. Moeen pumped his fist and Kohli had one of those rueful looks at the pitch as he walked away.
He had tried to cut a delivery outside off that had gone on straight, and was beaten. Then one spun sharply past his pads for a wide. The pitch was helping turn and as soon as Moeen got his line right by starting it from outside off-stump, he got his man.
The Adelaide pitch has shown signs of helping turn and playing a touch slow. Apart from the bowled dismissal, Mooen is also likely to look at getting Kohli driving uppishly to short extra-cover on a slightly sluggish surface where the ball can stop a bit.
Last year, during the India vs England Test series, Chepauk witnessed a Moeen vs Kohli face-off. There, the England offie had kept the cover region vacant, bowled a tossed-up delivery outside off and induced Kohli to play a cover-drive, his bread-and-butter shot. The ball drifted away, turned sharply after pitching and went through the gate to hit the top of off-stump. The India captain was flummoxed to the extent of disbelief. He stood there for a long time despite being out bowled. Even the on-field umpires went for a referral. But there was no doubt whatsoever. Kohli fell into the trap and was out for a duck.
For Kohli, possessing arguably the best cover-drive in the business, the vacant off-side spot was too big a temptation to resist.
What did Moeen say now?
“Top players, when they’re in, they’re hard to stop in T20 cricket. You have to have a plan to slow them down and then maybe get a wicket,” Mooen said on Tuesday, ahead of the semi-final against India.
“He’s playing well, so we’ll have to stick to our plans whatever they are. I’ve played with and against these guys quite a lot now and so you know a lot,” said Moeen. “I think as a team, we prepare for everything the day will bring, we’ll know how we’re going to bowl at him and stick to those plans.
“It also depends on how he’s batting at the time, his own confidence. Batting-wise, he’s batting really well. I think since the Asia Cup, I feel like he’s back to his best. He looks like he’s found his mojo again and that happens to every player over their careers. He’s playing well, so we’ll have to stick to our plans, whatever they are. Top players, when they’re in, they’re hard to stop in T20 cricket. India obviously are used to playing under pressure in front of a lot of people.”
Moeen’s dismissal of Kohli in the Chennai Test brought back memories of Michael Vaughan’s off-break to Sachin Tendulkar at Trent Bridge in 2002. Vaughan was only a part-time spinner, but produced a moment of magic against the master batsman – the ball pitching in the rough and breaking back sharply to sneak between bat and pad and hit the off-stump. Tendulkar, batting on 92 then, looked stunned.
“Getting an Indian legend bowled through the gate isn’t that difficult as an off-spinner !!!” Vaughan had tweeted after Kohli’s dismissal in May.