Edgbaston (Agencies): Moeen Ali said Ben Stokes was the only England captain who could have persuaded him to come out of Test retirement.
A one-word message from Stokes, after first-choice spinner Jack Leach had been ruled out of all five Ashes Tests against Australia, was all it took to bring slow-bowling all-rounder Moeen back into England’s red-ball set-up.
And Moeen could now be set for a return to Test cricket at Edgbaston, in his home city of Birmingham, when the Ashes series starts on Friday.
“Stokesy messaged me with a question mark — ‘Ashes?’,” Moeen told reporters at Edgbaston on Tuesday. Moeen said he had not heard the news about Leach, who has a back injury, and thought Stokes was joking.
“Then the news came through and I had a chat with him,” he said. “That was it. It’s the Ashes. To be part of it would be amazing.” Moeen, who turns 36 on Sunday, last played Test cricket in September 2021.
But his developing relationship with Stokes — the pair were together with Chennai Super Kings during this year’s Indian Premier League — proved the difference.
Asked if there was any other captain who could have persuaded him to change his mind, Moeen replied: “Probably not, no.” A powerful batsman as well as an off-spinner, Moeen has played 64 Tests for England, taking 195 wickets and scoring 2,914 runs.
But Australia have proved tough opponents for Moeen, with his career bowling average shooting up from 36.66 to 64.65 in Ashes cricket.
Nevertheless, he said he is relishing the chance to be involved as England bid for a first Ashes series win since 2015. “The fact that it is the Ashes and it is such a big series, to be part of it would be amazing,” said Moeen.
England have won 11 of their 13 Tests since Stokes joined forces with coach Brendon McCullum last year and Moeen said he is keen to be involved in the exciting brand of cricket.
“There are no question marks over any shots you play, which gives me licence to play a few more rash shots, I guess.
“Even with the ball, he is more on the aggressive side. I know I go for runs but Stokesy also knows there are some wicket-taking deliveries in between. That’s all he cares about.”