Count me out
Moeen tells England he needs break from Test cricket
Moeen Ali’s Test career is on hold after he asked England for an indefinite break from the format, although he remains available to play one-day cricket.
Moeen was yesterday only awarded a white-ball central contract by England and will not be considered for selection for the tours to New Zealand and South Africa. England are hopeful he will be back for the two Tests in Sri Lanka in March, unless someone else has emerged to take his place.
“It’s just to get away from it a little bit,” said Moeen. “I feel like I want to enjoy my batting and this will give me a bit of a break. I want to spend some time with the family. I’ve been playing for England for five years and it’s been quite tough. The intensity is obviously higher in Test cricket so this is just to give me a break and then we will see what happens after that. I’m not ruling out playing Test cricket in the future.”
Ashley Giles, the director of cricket, said at Lord’s yesterday that no “time frame” has been put on Moeen’s return to the Test arena.
“For all guys, not just Moeen, it’s been a really challenging summer,” said Giles. “A World Cup and Ashes back-to-back has had a massive effect on many of these guys psychologically, as much as physically.
“He has been a great servant to this team and that’s why I encouraged him to leave the option open to come back. He might just need to go away and freshen up. He’s [still] relatively young.”
The decision leaves Jack Leach as England’s first-choice spinner, but they will need a reserve for the New Zealand and South Africa tours, with Dominic Bess, who played two Tests last summer, the most likely candidate. Adil Rashid also lost his Test contract yesterday and is now expected to retire from first-class cricket to pursue a career playing franchise T20 cricket. He remains part of England’s white-ball plans.
Moeen, 32, was dropped from the Test team after a poor Ashes series in Australia 18 months ago, but returned halfway through last summer and was rejuvenated as a spinner. But his batting fell away and he was dropped after the first Ashes Test this summer, when he was comfortably outbowled by Nathan Lyon and looked bereft of confidence. He also lost his place during the World Cup campaign, but that was partly due to the pitches not suiting England’s tactic of picking two spinners.
Leach took his place for the Ashes series and became a hero with the bat, but he is a fledgling bowler at Test level and England want to see more from him before giving him a central contract. He was awarded an incremental contract yesterday, which puts him on a retainer, but not on the same lucrative salary as the full-time centrally contracted players.
Giles confirmed Eoin Morgan will continue as captain of the oneday team and take the side to the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia in October next year. That format will become the main focus, with another Twenty20 World Cup 12 months later in India, but at some point England will have to move on from Morgan and appoint another captain who can plan for the 50-over World Cup in 2023.
England showed their ruthlessness by cutting Liam Plunkett from their list of contracted players, despite his three wickets in the World Cup final.
Plunkett was one of Morgan’s most trusted players and England won every match in the World Cup when he was in the side. But, at 34, his international career is over and the World Cup-winning XI will never play together again. “Disappointed is an understatement,” Plunkett said last night.
Test-match contracts James Anderson (Lancashire), Jofra Archer (Sussex), Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Rory Burns (Surrey), Jos Buttler (Lancashire), Sam Curran (Surrey), Joe Root (Yorkshire), Ben Stokes (Durham), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire). ODI/T20 contracts Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), Archer, Bairstow, Buttler, Joe Denly (Kent), Eoin Morgan (Middlesex), Adil Rashid (Yorkshire), Root, Jason Roy (Surrey), Stokes, Woakes, Mark Wood (Durham). Incremental contracts Tom Curran (Surrey), Jack Leach (Somerset).
Challenging summer: Moeen Ali was dropped after the first Ashes Test