Moeen Ali is considering the possibility of reversing his Test retirement after Jack Leach’s injury left England short of an experienced spinner for the Ashes.
Moeen, 35, has not played red-ball cricket since September 2021 but has found his name thrust back into the conversation after Leach was ruled out for the summer by a stress fracture in his lower back.
The PA news agency understands Moeen is weighing up whether or not to make a dramatic return over the next couple of days.
England are not without slow bowling options, with Surrey’s Will Jacks, Leicestershire’s rising star Rehan Ahmed and Liam Dawson all offering different skills. However, none can match the experience of a seasoned Test player with 64 caps and 195 wickets under his belt.
Head coach Brendon McCullum previously tried to tempt the all-rounder back into the fray for the historic tour of Pakistan but, after initially declaring himself open to the idea, Moeen ultimately decided to stick to limited-overs cricket.
Now the same offer is back on the table in the form of one last shot at Australia. With the series getting under way at Moeen’s home ground of Edgbaston on June 16, time is short, but the England and Wales Cricket Board are unlikely to rush for a quicker verdict.
Announcing his decision not to take up McCullum’s offer of taking part in the Pakistan trip, Moeen said last year: “I want to enjoy my cricket and it wouldn’t be fair to reverse my decision and then struggle to give it my all. It’s time to close the door on that side of my career. To play 64 tests for England has been a privilege and a dream fulfilled.”
He had earlier taken a different tone, hinting that he could be persuaded to re-enter the fray, telling PA and the Guardian last June: “Baz messaged me asking if I was in. Maybe in the future, potential tours or whatever, who knows? I said ‘Call me at the time’. If and when he calls me, we’ll chat.”
If he did throw himself into the maelstrom of an Ashes summer, Moeen would need to be certain he had the necessary mental and physical energy to take on a side against whom he has some difficult experiences but, perhaps, unfinished business.
The leadership style of McCullum and captain Ben Stokes may prove a real draw in his deliberations. Moeen’s naturally aggressive style, with both ball and bat, chimes perfectly with the current environment and the chance to make his own mark on the ‘Bazball’ era could be persuasive.
Stuart Broad, a contemporary of Moeen’s who has been revitalised by the set-up over the last year, can already see a neat fit.
He told Sky Sports: “We know Mo is a phenomenal cricketer and someone who would fit into Stokes and Baz’s philosophy beautifully.
“I don’t know if he’s being considered by the selectors or if he would consider red-ball cricket again, but he’s a mighty fine cricketer.”
England have held off naming an addition to the squad, having originally expected to make an early call, leaving the ball in Moeen’s court.