Moeen Ali is thinking about playing Test cricket again during the Ashes.
The off-spinning all-rounder, who was going to quit at the end of the 2021 summer, told ESPNcricinfo that the England management had asked him to answer a “mayday call” after Jack Leach was ruled out of the five-match series with a back stress fracture.
Moeen, who is 35 years old, has played in 67 Tests, scored 2,914 runs, and taken 195 wickets at an average of 36.66 per game. He gave up the format because he wanted to focus only on limited-overs cricket. He thought his time in long-form cricket was up, in part because of problems with his spinning finger. In September 2021, his last Test was against India at the Oval. It was also his last first-class match.
Since then, he has helped England win the T20 World Cup in 2022 and won his second IPL title earlier this year with Chennai Super Kings. He has also moved back to his home county, Warwickshire, from Worcestershire. In the Vitality Blast, he is the captain of their T20 team, the Birmingham Bears. He will also be in charge of media for the Ashes.
It would be hard to replace Leach. The Somerset spinner has played in all 13 Tests for Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum. He has 45 dismissals and has bowled 515.1 overs, which is more than any other bowler in the world has done in that time.
After beating Ireland by 10 wickets at Lord’s, England won’t get together to train for the first Test at Edgbaston until the Tuesday after next week. This weekend, the team will go to Loch Lomond to get to know each other better. So, a choice about who will replace Leach does not have to be made right away.
Moeen has not done well against Australia. In 11 games, he has been out 20 times, which is not a good average of 64.65. This is a little better at home (47.86), where he has taken 15 wickets in six Tests, 12 of which came in 2015, the last time England won the Ashes. After the first Test of the 2019 series, he was taken off the team.
Moeen told ESPNcricinfo during the IPL that he thought his bowling was getting close to where it was when he was at his best. His bowling had gotten worse since he stopped playing Test cricket. During the event, he took nine wickets at a rate of 21.66.
“I feel like I’ve been missing out on some things for the past few years,” he said. “I’m just starting to get it back: a little flow in my movements.
“I always felt like I bowled well in white-ball cricket when I was playing Test matches. I guess you could lose that flow. I think I need to keep thinking that I need to bowl with the same energy I did in Test matches.”
Stuart Broad praised Moeen’s qualities and said that he was a perfect fit for the present regime when he spoke on Monday. Broad told Sky Sports, “We know Mo is a great cricketer who would fit in well with Stokes and Baz’s way of thinking.” “I don’t know if the coaches are thinking about him or if he would be willing to play red-ball cricket again. But he’s a great cricket player.”
Last summer, McCullum asked Moeen to come out of retirement so that the team could tour Pakistan in December. Moeen said that his winter calendar was already full with the T20 World Cup and ILT20 commitments with Sharjah Warriors at the beginning of 2023. At the time, McCullum did not see Moeen’s lack of experience with red-ball cricket as a reason why he shouldn’t be on the team.
If Moeen turns down the offer this time, other spinning all-rounders like Will Jacks, Rehan Ahmed, and Liam Livingstone, who got hurt in the first Test of that tour and had to leave because of a knee injury, will be considered. Liam Dawson of Hampshire, who spins the ball with his left arm and is a good hitter, is also a long shot.
Alastair Cook, who used to be captain of England, said on BBC Radio 5 Live, “Liam Dawson is a good match.” “He could do exactly what Jack Leach could do, but he’s a better batter. It’s the safe choice, the guy who can hold an end up and won’t let anyone down. His bowling has gotten a lot better over the last few years, but it doesn’t seem like Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum to take the safe, conservative path.
“I would probably choose Dawson for that job, but I think England will go with the more aggressive one. They want to catch Moeen. It’s hard for Mo because he doesn’t want to disappoint Ben Stokes. He gets along well with him. But it’s a big ask. When you know what Test cricket, and especially an Ashes, can do to your mind, you have to want to be in the fight.
“It’s clear that he felt like he was done with Test cricket in the last few years. It depends on whether some time apart has changed that. It’s easy to say yes over the phone, but do you really want to be there when the heat is on?”