Moeen Ali is set to face India at Lord’s on Thursday after the all-rounder was whipped out of the Hundred and added to England’s squad for the second Test.
England played an all-seam attack during the rain-affected draw at Trent Bridge but with spin expected to be a feature in London, and all-rounders Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes absent, Moeen offers Joe Root this option while still retaining four quicks.
The 34-year-old played his last Test in Chennai back in February, claiming eight wickets, removing Virat Kohli in both innings and blitzing a remarkable 18-ball 43 on the final morning, before departing the tour for one of the pre-agreed breaks granted to England’s multi-format players during a three-month trip.
But while many feared this would be Moeen’s final outing in the whites of England, not least with head coach Chris Silverwood making little secret of his desire to build a team for this winter’s Ashes series and the all-rounder having struggled during the 2017/18 tour of Australia, he is now poised for his first home Test since August 2019.
Like Jos Buttler, Sam Curran and Jonny Bairstow going into the first Test, Moeen has not played first-class cricket this summer and has instead been blazing a trail for Birmingham Phoenix in the Hundred. On Monday night he struck a 23-ball half-century against Welsh Fire in what could be his final appearance of the tournament.
The move to re-ignite his Test career is tough on Jack Leach and Dom Bess, who are already in the squad. England clearly feel picking either spinner would involve lengthening the tail or dropping down to three seamers, while an in-form Moeen can bat at No 7, where he has made three of his five Test hundreds, and support with the ball.
Leach in particular will feel harshly done by, having not featured for England this summer despite ending the subcontinental winter in Sri Lanka and India as their leading wicket-taker. Speaking before Moeen’s call-up, Silverwood addressed this.
Asked if it could damage Leach’s confidence, the England head coach replied: “You always worry about that when guys aren’t playing. I’d be lying if I said that it doesn’t cross my mind. I’m sure he will play a big part in the future.
“But ultimately we have to pick what we believe is the best side to win a Test match. Within that comes a balance and, at Trent Bridge, we wanted seamers and that’s the way we went. When you make a decision like that, there’s always someone on the wrong end of it and Jack has found himself on the wrong end of it this time.”
Moeen’s record on home soil against India certainly supports the call-up, with 31 wickets at 22 from seven Tests in 2014 and 2018, and now the question is which batsman makes way – Dan Lawrence seems likeliest – and the identity of the seamers who are selected alongside him in the five-man attack.
As a left-armer, Curran offers the potential to create rough for Moeen against the right-handers in India’s line-up, but Mark Wood would bring pace. Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ollie Robinson seem likely to play again, with this second Test followed by a week-long break leading into the third in Leeds that starts on 25 August.
Elsewhere England are also mulling over a recall for Haseeb Hameed in the top three after nearly five years out of the side, with Zak Crawley at No 3 looking the most vulnerable after struggling for runs this year.