A Moeen Ali innings is normally full of attractive strokes that spectators talk about on the way home arguing over which was the best but this performance was different. There were times when it was ugly, times when it was hard work on a pitch fruitier than anything put in the cocktails served up to the tourists in the Party Stand.
It took bravery and called on Moeen to show patience, a quality he said before the first Test had disappeared from his batting. A pair in Barbados backed up that assessment. Michael Vaughan wrote in these pages on the eve of the second Test that Moeen’s batting is “emblematic of this England team.” Brilliant when on top, frustratingly sketchy when England are in trouble.
There were some trademark shots through the covers as the moisture in the pitch dried out, the ball softened and batting became a bit easier in the afternoon but before then Moeen had to graft to pull his team back from the brink at 78 for five and 1-0 down in the series. There were inside edges, cuts over the slips for four and wafts that did not connect.
But he showed some fight and his first half century since the Oval at the end of last summer will ease a bit of pressure that had been building. The fact it fell flat on 60 meant this was not a career-defining innings, and it is even hard to say if it has changed the course of the match given the unpredictability of the pitch as well as the collapse that followed, but he at least kept England in the contest. An innings of 60 on this surface was the equivalent of double that on a flat deck elsewhere or against a poor Sri Lankan side before Christmas. The 85 stand with Ben Foakes turned 93 for six into something defendable.