Valiant Moeen Ali proved he has the temperament to score many hundreds for England after his maiden Test ton came so close to denying Sri Lanka an historic series win, says Sir Ian Botham.
Moeen batted throughout the final day to score an undefeated 108 from 281 balls but could only watch on from the non-striker’s end as Shaminda Eranga bounced out last-man James Anderson (0 off 55 balls) to earn the tourists a dramatic 100-run victory at Headingley.
Botham praised Moeen’s elegant resistance, which lasted for over six hours, and said the 27-year-old Worcestershire batsman clearly has the attitude and ability to cope with the big occasion.
“Moeen Ali looked magnificent,” the former all-rounder reflected. “I thought he looked in full control. He was annoyed with himself when he flashed outside the off-stump in the first innings.
“He cut all that out in his second innings. I think he played two play-and-misses in that whole innings.
“His temperament was spot on and he made it look very simple - simpler than any other player, perhaps with the exception of Angelo Mathews, in the whole game.
“To come out and play with that kind of maturity in his second Test, with everything that was going on around him, was impressive.
“Of all of the young players that we’ve seen, he’s the one who will probably go on and score plenty of hundreds. He’s shown today that he’s got the temperament and powers of concentration.”
England appeared to have little hope of saving the game after starting the fifth and final day on 57-5 in their second innings, needing another 293 runs for a highly-improbable victory.
But Moeen found dependable allies in Joe Root (31), Matt Prior (10) and Chris Jordan (17) before being joined by Anderson with 20.2 overs left after Stuart Broad fell lbw to Rangana Herath (3-59).
The last pair seemed destined to thwart Sri Lanka’s hopes of their first Test series victory in this country until Eranga struck with the penultimate ball.
“It would have been quite some effort for England to have saved this game; after two games they were bossing the game and then Sri Lanka came back at them.
“Angelo Mathews’ innings was one of the best I’ve seen for some time from a captain and then Prasad picked up 4-15 in that spell yesterday afternoon, which knocked the stuffing out of England.
“Moeen Ali has played magnificently; Test cricket is by far the best game there ever will be because it ebbs, flows and changes. The other formats are the icing on the cake but Test cricket is the flagship. We’ve had a great game at Lord’s and a great game here.
“There was a lot of passion and determination from both sides. England got so close to saving it but congratulations to Sri Lanka, who were brilliant.
“Not many people will have thought that the Sri Lankan seamers would out-bowl the England seamers at Headingley in English conditions.”
Watch England take on India in the first of five Tests live on Sky Sports, starting on Wednesday July 9.