Moeen Ali has admitted England have not played well at the T20 World Cup and challenged the team to establish themselves as a genuinely great white-ball side by adding another trophy to the 50-over World Cup they won at home in 2019.
England also reached the final of the 2016 T20 World Cup and the semi-finals of last year’s competition, but Moeen does not believe their previous success is enough for them to be considered a top-level team. “There’s a lot of talk about us being a great white-ball side and the England team has been really good, but we’ve only won one tournament and it’s important we start winning more as a team and as a country,” he said.
“Then we can really call ourselves a top side. We are a really good side. I get that, and we have been over a long period, but if we’re going to be a great side we need to win more trophies, and when I look back I want to say: ‘Yes, I was part of a great side.’”
England have not often looked like that in this tournament so far, having progressed through the Super 12s by beating New Zealand and squeaking past Afghanistan and Sri Lanka after nervous run chases, and despite losing to Ireland. On Thursday they face India in the semi-finals, aware that a significant improvement will be required if they are to reach another final.
“I don’t think we’ve played well in the whole tournament,” Moeen said. “But we got the job done. We wanted to get to the semis. In the past we’ve played well and got through. This time I don’t think we’ve played well but we’ve got through and the best is yet to come with this side. I don’t think we’ve been near where we want to be, but now’s a great opportunity to put that right. You always talk about peaking at the right time and if you just about scrape through it means you can get better. If we play our best cricket in the next two games I believe we win the World Cup.”
England are very likely to be forced to change their starting XI for the semi-final, with Dawid Malan having suffered a groin strain against Sri Lanka on Saturday. Team doctors have decided that he does not require a scan but, while he continues to receive treatment, Moeen admitted: “It doesn’t look great.” Early indications are that Phil Salt will come in as a direct replacement, though different options are being discussed.
“Mala’s obviously a big miss because he’s a brilliant player in T20 cricket and he has been over a long period of time,” Moeen said. “The great thing with this side is there’s so many options. You can put Ben Stokes at three, you can put Phil Salt at three, myself or whoever, there’s so many options.”
Stokes’s innings against Sri Lanka, when he kept his head while all around him were losing their wickets, guiding the team calmly to victory, has confirmed his importance to the side, having previously struggled to make an impact with the bat in Australia.
“We should [all] have played like Stokesy, just get the job done,” Moeen said. “Be ugly and don’t worry what it looks like.
“We didn’t know what we should have done as batters – it was the pressure of the situation, but that’s when you need someone like Stokesy. We need him because he can win you a game like that. He’s calm, he’s been there before and he’s done it – as long as he was there everybody was fine.”
India will represent a much greater challenge. Virat Kohli is the tournament’s leading run-scorer with 246 – almost double England’s best, Alex Hales’s 125 – while Suryakumar Yadav is not far behind with 225, scored at the ludicrous strike rate of 193.96.
The 32-year-old Yadav’s 25-ball 61 against Zimbabwe in their final game of the Super 12s was jaw-dropping at times. “He’s an amazing player,” Moeen said. “I do feel like he’s the best in the world, and he’s one of many good players they have. He’s probably taken T20 cricket to another level – he’s the first player to come through where you can’t bowl at him when he’s playing well.”
Moeen may be able to help England come up with a plan for Kohli, having played with him for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League and bowled him while playing for Chennai Super Kings this year. “I’ve played against these guys quite a lot now so you know a lot,” he said. “As a team we prepare for everything the day will bring. We’ll know how we’re going to bowl at him, but if we have to change and adapt we’ve got the players to do it. That for me is really important.”