Moeen Ali's capture of 6/67 in India's second innings to propel England to an emphatic victory in the third Test at the Ageas Bowl has suddenly heightened the sense that the bearded all-rounder could develop into a front-line spinner for Alastair Cook's side.
Prior to the summer—even prior to this Test—Moeen was widely viewed as a stylish batsman, who, at best, would be capable of holding down a part-time role with the ball at Test level.
That perception, however, is changing.
The 27-year-old's strong series against India that has seen him claim 15 wickets at 26.46 has quickly altered the wider view of what might be possible for Moeen.
Indeed, against subcontinental batsmen who are typically serene against spin and on English pitches that have varied from dead to green thus far, the all-rounder's feats have become increasingly difficult to ignore.
As noted by George Dobell of ESPN Cricinfo, Moeen's current opponents are as significant as his growing wicket tally:
He rendered a batting line-up brought up on turning pitches, a batting line-up renowned as fine players of the turning ball, appear timid and vulnerable. And he did it all with the skills of a traditional English offspinner.
It would be easy, of course, to suggest that fortune has played a large role in the off-spinner's success, particularly given the manner of Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane's dismissals in the first innings at Southampton.
One could also argue that Moeen is benefitting from a lack of respect shown to him by India's players, seeing him claim the scalps of reckless batsmen.
But when the wickets keep coming, when high-quality players continue to be dismissed, opinions need to be re-evaluated.
In capturing his six-wicket haul at the Ageas Bowl, Moeen recorded the fifth-best bowling performance by an England spinner against India in Test history.
Tellingly, his 6/67 is the second finest such feat to be recorded on English soil behind only Ray Illingworth's 6/29 at Lord's in 1967.
The other three performances rounding out the top five have taken place on the turning pitches found on the subcontinent.
|Top 5 Test Bowling Performances by England Spinner vs. India|
A single display, of course, doesn't make one a star and Moeen's small sample size as a Test player means projections of his potential are based on limited evidence.
Therefore, while it would be misguided to compare the 27-year-old's current statistics with the career records of England's finest spinners, like-for-like comparisons make for extremely intriguing reading.
Examining the records of notable England spinners throughout history in their opening five Tests on home soil places Moeen among the most successful tweakers ever to represent his nation at this stage of his career.
Perhaps most notable is Moeen's superior record over Graeme Swann at the same stage, given that the retirement of the decorated spinner had opened gaping holes in England's armoury.
|Records of Notable England Spinners in First 5 Tests at Home|
Bolstering Moeen's stock further is his ability as a batsman, which saw him compile a century against Sri Lanka at Headingley in the second Test of the summer.
Of the players listed above, only Illingworth can stand alongside the 27-year-old as a Test centurion.
Using the same analysis as that carried out above, the all-rounder's bowling record also stacks up extremely well against his current team-mates at the same stage of their respective careers.
In fact, with 18 wickets in his first five appearances at Test level for England, only James Anderson had a more prolific initial burst than the one being enjoyed by Moeen at present.
|Bowling Records for Current England Players in First 5 Tests|
But the impressive records don't stop there.
Looking at the batsmen who have fallen victim to Moeen's bowling indicates that he's troubling some of the finest players the game has to offer.
So far in the current series against India, the off-spinner has dismissed every batsman to have featured in the top seven for the visitors aside from MS Dhoni.
|List of Moeen Ali's Test Victims|
|Batsman||No. of Dismissals|
Of course, the confined time period of Moeen's statistics prevent us from automatically assuming England have a future star in the making.
But given his impressive standing in like-for-like comparisons, it can't be denied that Moeen is trending in the right direction.
All statistics courtesy of ESPN Cricinfo.
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