Moeen Ali has answered England’s Ashes call, reversing his retirement from Test cricket for one last mission against Australia.
England’s plans for the series were derailed by a stress fracture to first-choice spinner Jack Leach but Moeen has agreed to return to red-ball cricket for the first time in almost two years to fill the breach.
The 35-year-old was invited to join the squad at the start of the week and, after taking a couple of days to ponder his decision, has now agreed to join up with the team.
England did have other options, including 18-year-old Rehan Ahmed, who became England’s youngest Test cricketer when he debuted in Karachi in December, and Surrey’s Will Jacks but none with the experience and credentials of Moeen.
He has 64 Test caps, 195 wickets and the small matter of five Test centuries. With Jonny Bairstow slotting back into the side at number seven following his return from a broken leg, Moeen is likely to bat at eight and give the home side a seriously dangerous lower order.
The Ashes begins at Moeen’s home ground of Edgbaston on July 16, with the all-rounder due to turn 36 on day three.
Rob Key, England’s managing director of men’s cricket, was involved in discussions alongside head coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes and explained: “We reached out to Mo early this week about returning to Test cricket. Having had a couple of days to reflect, Mo is excited to join the squad and play Test cricket again.
“His vast experience, along with his all-round ability, will benefit our Ashes campaign. We wish Mo and the rest of the squad well for the Ashes campaign.”
McCullum previously tried to tempt Moeen 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.
Speaking at the time, Moeen concluded: “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 has now been persuaded to take the field again, warming to the idea of turning out for Stokes and McCullum. They have overhauled the way England play the game, prioritising an attacking, proactive style that fits Moeen’s own approach like a glove.
Australia have proved thorny opponents for Moeen in the past, with his career bowling average climbing from 36.66 to 64.65 in Ashes cricket, but he is ready to embrace unfinished business against England’s biggest rivals.
He will need to get back to grips with the red Dukes ball after dedicating himself to the white-ball formats since September 2021, and will work alongside spin coach Jeetan Patel in the run-up to the series opener in Birmingham.