In-form all-rounder was shocked at the acclaim he received from both sets of fans and prefers to shun the limelight
MOEEN ALI realised he is England’s new cricket cult hero after being tricked on to the pitch at half-time in Liverpool’s match last Saturday.
He went to Vicarage Road for the Reds’ season-opener – and suddenly found himself in front of more than 20,000 people.
The crowd cheered wildly for the man who, against South Africa, had just become the first to score 250 or more runs and take 25 wickets in a four-Test series.
The Watford fans joined in — even after hearing Moeen is a Liverpool fanatic.
Now he will be feted again in his home city of Birmingham in the historic pink ball Test against West Indies starting on Thursday.
Moeen said: “I went to Watford with a friend who asked me to do five minutes with Watford TV.
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“I ended up going on the pitch – I was so embarrassed. Then I had to tell the fans I’m a Liverpool fan. I was really surprised they knew who I was.”
Moeen’s profile is growing rapidly – he is one of the best all-rounders in the world and a calm, engaging role model for British Muslims.
He does not seek the spotlight and tends to go to places where he hopes he will not be recognised, such as a farm last week with his wife and baby.
And the idea that he might even be a contender for Sports Personality of the Year leaves him cringing with self-consciousness.
Moeen added: “Oh, no, I don’t think so. I’d be too embarrassed to go there. I hate…well, I don’t hate it but I’ll be on tour, so that’s perfect.
“I get attention – the beard is a big sign for that – and most places someone will recognise me. If people want a picture, it’s nice for the kids.
“In Birmingham, people know me from before and always ask for tickets.
Moeen reckons he has developed a better grasp of the mechanics of his bowling and that means a big improvement with the ball this summer.
Thursday and Friday are the busy days because my mates play cricket themselves on Saturday.”
He explained: “Previously, I had four or five different actions depending on the day and the wicket.
“But this summer with Saqlain Mushtaq (England spin coach), it’s one action, repeating all the time.
“I still bowl a few bad balls but I feel I’m more accurate because my action is more consistent.
“With my batting, I always knew why and how, but my bowling was the opposite. Now I understand things better.”
Meanwhile, all-rounder Chris Woakes is pushing for a place in England’s XI after two months out with a 9cm tear in a side muscle.
Woakes has returned to England’s squad after just one championship match for Warwickshire and insisted: “I’m bowling at 100 per cent. I wouldn’t have been selected otherwise.
“I played a couple of second team games before a championship game against Middlesex last week. I feel in good rhythm and the more I bowl, the less I think about the injury.”
Woakes is likely to have to wait for his return with England ready to stick with Toby Roland-Jones for the pink ball match.
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