When you're being compared to Steve Harmison and recent viral European Cricket League sensation Pavel Florin it's fair to say you've sent down a shocker.

Moeen Ali set the tone for England in the worst possible way with a ridiculous beamer that sailed well over Steve Smith's head in the first over of day four.

While Smith made it even more uncomfortable with an ill-advised swipe, the net result was a big dent in Ali's confidence and it showed as Australia dominated the day with the bat to take control of the match.

Ali — who was bowled for a duck after shouldering arms to Nathan Lyon — finished with 2/130 from 29 overs on a pitch he showed himself offered a bit to the spinners when he bowled Tim Paine through the gate.

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Australia — in particular Smith (142) and Matthew Wade (110) — feasted on his bowling to leave the offspinner facing the axe after just one match in the series.

"Two-dozen fielders would have been insufficient to protect Moeen Ali," The Australian's Gideon Haigh wrote.

"It's as though he is just putting it there," observed Nasser Hussain in commentary.

"The way Moeen's form and confidence is draining away before our eyes is both sad to watch and alarming for the rest of this Ashes series," wrote The Sun's John Etheridge. "Playing Australia brings him nightmares."

Moeen Ali of England bowls. Photo / Getty
Moeen Ali of England bowls. Photo / Getty

Ali's selection in England's XI was one of the more contentious decisions despite his strong record. Former English captain Bob Willis said Ali was so out of form selectors would be doing him a disservice by picking him, but others cited his statistics as a counterargument.

"In the past 12 months he has taken 45 Test wickets at 23.13 in the nine matches he has played. That is not just good, that is more Test wickets than any other player for any country has managed in that time," wrote Sky Sports Sam Drury. "Pakistan's Yasir Shah is second with 38 followed by Australia's Nathan Lyon on 37."

But as ex-Test player Rob Key noted, "the problem with Moeen Ali is that his good is very good but there is no in between with him" and at first glimpse he looks to be a shadow of his best version.

It's left the hosts, in former Test opener Mike Atherton's opinion, facing
"a very difficult decision".

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"He looks very low on confidence with the bat at the moment and Smith's record against off-spin is exceptional while his record against left-arm spin is less good," Atherton said. "Whether you fashion your attack around getting just one man out, who knows?"

The Telegraph's chief sports writer Paul Hayward posited England's "sole comfort is knowing the nemesis is vulnerable in the 140s".

"When one of your bowlers (Chris Woakes) comes off the field and asks a BBC radio crew: 'Do you have any ideas?' you can be sure plans for removing the finest Test batsman of his generation are running low," Hayward wrote.

That's music to the ears of Australia.