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The Ashes: Why Moeen Ali’s return is England’s best option

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Moeen Ali's Return

Life can change rapidly. Just a few days ago, Liverpool (LIV) was seen as the villains in golf, Karim Benzema was a proud member of Real Madrid, and Moeen Ali was considered a retired Test cricketer. However, the tides have turned. LIV is now at the top of the golfing world, Benzema has become a sporting asset for Saudi Arabia, and Moeen Ali has made a remarkable comeback.

Moeen’s decision to answer England’s call for the Ashes is the latest twist in the exhilarating journey led by Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum. The news of Jack Leach’s back injury on Sunday was a significant blow, both individually and collectively. It deprived Leach, who has faced numerous unfortunate injuries and health issues, of the opportunity to participate in an Ashes series at a time when he is at his peak in Test cricket and indispensable to the England team.

This injury also left England with a glaring void in their bowling attack, especially considering the uncertainty surrounding captain Stokes’ ability to bowl. The options available to fill this void were far from satisfactory and would have put the players in an incredibly challenging and potentially unfair situation.

While young leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed has shown promise and had a successful debut in Pakistan, at 18, he may not be ready to shoulder the responsibility of being the sole spinner against the formidable Australian team. Will Jacks, another budding all-rounder with off-spinning abilities, had an impressive debut but is still developing as a bowler.

Matt Parkinson has been dropped from Lancashire’s County Championship team, and Liam Dawson has not played Test cricket since 2017. Among these choices, Dawson, a left-arm spinner, might have been the most reliable option, but when have Stokes and McCullum ever taken the safe bet?

One potential strategy was for England to field four frontline seamers, supported by Joe Root’s off-spin and whatever bowling overs Stokes could contribute. This approach seemed reasonable, considering Stokes’ preference for choosing to field first and Australia’s inclination to bat first when they win the toss. In such scenarios, having a spinner in the team for the fourth innings may not be crucial.

However, this theory is debunked by the crucial role Leach has played in England’s recent success, with 11 wins in 13 Tests. Since 2001, England has not won an Ashes Test without a frontline spinner. If a specialist spinner is indeed necessary, Moeen Ali brings invaluable experience from his 64 Tests, having taken 195 wickets. Only Derek Underwood and Graeme Swann have more wickets among England’s spinners. Some argue that Moeen would still be England’s first-choice spinner if he hadn’t retired before the previous Ashes series.

As a World Cup winner in both limited-overs formats, Moeen is no stranger to high-pressure situations. His recent triumph in the Indian Premier League, winning the final in front of over 100,000 spectators, demonstrates his ability to thrive on big occasions. With five Test centuries to his name, Moeen’s all-round skills provide England with flexibility. If Stokes is unfit to bowl, Moeen could bolster the lower order and allow Stuart Broad to bat at a more suitable position.

An engine room consisting of Root, Harry Brook, Stokes, Bairstow, and Moeen presents an exciting prospect. England’s attacking style, championed under Stokes’ leadership, perfectly complements Moeen’s flair in both batting and bowling. In previous, more rigid regimes, Moeen may not have performed at his best.

Moeen has contemplated a return before, “unretiring” last summer but ultimately declining a place on the tour of Pakistan. Recalling a player who hasn’t played with a red ball for almost two years carries inherent risks. Australia will undoubtedly target Moeen, just as they did in the previous series where they effectively neutralized him after one Test.

Moeen’s bowling statistics against Australia (average of 64.65 and strike-rate of 100.5) are his worst against any opponent. Steve Smith, in particular, has dominated Moeen, averaging nearly 114 against him. In 2021, Moeen’s final year in Test cricket, his batting average of 37.50 and strike-rate of 63 were his worst since 2016.

Nonetheless, an England led by Stokes and McCullum is not concerned about the potential risks. They anticipate and hope for a positive impact from Moeen. This philosophy has served them well thus far. If things go according to plan, perhaps Moeen might consider an extended comeback, especially with five Tests against India on the horizon early next year.

Alternatively, if this turns out to be a final hurrah—a last dance under the brightest lights—it could be a remarkable finale to Moeen’s Test career. Regardless of the outcome, Moeen’s return adds another layer of intrigue to what is shaping up to be the most highly anticipated Ashes series in a generation.

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CricketFan123 June 9, 2023 - 4:02 am

Omg! Moeen Ali’s comeback for the Ashes is like, wow! England really needed him, y’know? I mean, they were so screwed after Jack Leach got injured. Poor guy, he deserved his shot at the Ashes. But hey, at least they brought back Moeen, and he’s got some unfinished business with the Aussies. Can’t wait to see how it all unfolds!

BattingNerd27 June 9, 2023 - 4:02 am

England’s decision to recall Moeen Ali for the Ashes is kinda risky, right? I mean, the dude hasn’t played red-ball cricket in, like, forever. And his stats against Australia are not exactly great. But hey, Stokes and McCullum are all about taking risks, so who am I to judge? Maybe Moeen will surprise us all and shine in the series. Fingers crossed!

CricStatsGuru June 9, 2023 - 4:02 am

Moeen Ali’s return brings a whole new dynamic to England’s Ashes squad. With his experience and all-round abilities, he could be a game-changer. And let’s not forget his batting skills! If he gets going, he can really pack a punch in the lower order. But Australia won’t make it easy for him, especially Steve Smith. Moeen needs to be on top of his game. Exciting times ahead!

TrueBlueCricket June 9, 2023 - 4:02 am

Ah, the Ashes series is almost here, and the drama keeps on building! England’s choice to bring back Moeen Ali is an interesting one. Sure, he’s had his ups and downs, but he’s got that X-factor, you know? And in such a high-pressure series, you need players who can handle the heat. Moeen has the experience and talent to make an impact. Can’t wait to see how it pans out! Go England!


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