Southampton, England (AP) — Moeen Ali started the fourth test as England’s “second spinner.” By the end of it, he was England’s No. 1 bowler.
Ali’s match figures of 9-134 led England to a 60-run victory in the fourth test as the hosts completed a series victory on Sunday with an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-game contest.
England had set India a second-innings target of 245 after being bowled out for 271 early on Day 4 and appeared in trouble when Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane’s fourth-wicket century stand took India within sight of victory.
However, Ali, who had been left out of England’s test side all season to work on his game in county cricket, dismissed both to turn the game back in England’s favor, before India was eventually all out for 184.
“It’s obviously great to be back,” Ali said. “It’s great to come back and win the game. I just felt it’s not a bad thing to go back to county cricket and really enjoy my cricket again.”
The fourth day in Southampton was typical of the series as the momentum swung back and forth between the two sides.
Having resumed on 260-8, England added just 11 runs with Curran run out for 46. India’s first-innings 273 had given it a 27-run lead, meaning England set the tourists a challenging but reachable target of 245 with almost two full days left.
It initially looked like the same old story for India’s struggling batting lineup, as England made inroads before lunch.
Stuart Broad bowled Lokesh Rahul for a duck, before James Anderson (2-33) got his first wickets of the match as he trapped Cheteshwar Pujara (5) leg before wicket and had Shikhar Dhawan (17) caught at slip to leave India 22-3 at the Rose Bowl.
However, Kohli (58) and Rahane (51) put the pressure back on England as they patiently batted India into a strong position approaching tea.
Not for the first time in the match, Ali responded, taking the crucial wicket of Kohli just before tea in the first of his four second-innings wickets.
Ali had taken 5-63 in the first innings and was finally rewarded in the second when Kohli gloved his delivery to Alastair Cook at short leg. He finished with 4-71.
“Today was probably the best I’ve seen (Ali) bowl in an England shirt,” England captain Joe Root said. “That’s such a testament to the way he has gone about things and the way he has come back.”
With the partnership broken, England returned with confidence after tea and Ben Stokes (2-34) quickly removed Hardik Pandya for a duck.
Rishabh Pant struck a brisk 18 from 12 balls before being caught on the boundary off Ali, who then claimed the other key wicket of Rahane, leg before wicket, to all but end India’s hopes.
Stokes dismissed Ishant Sharma for a duck and Ali got his ninth wicket of the match as Mohammed Shami (8) launched the ball straight to Anderson at long on.
Fittingly, it was Sam Curran (1-1), whose first-innings 78 guided England to a competitive total, who took the final wicket. The 20-year-old all-rounder dismissed Ravichandran Ashwin (25) to end the match.
“England worked hard,” Kohli said. “They were relentless with the ball.”
The fifth and final test starts at the Oval in London on Friday.