Moeen Ali leaves England in a spin after turning his back on Test cricket to focus on one-day game… leaving Jack Leach as only specialist spinner ahead of New Zealand and South Africa tours
- Moeen Ali has been offered just a white-ball deal after requesting Test break
- Ashley Giles says Moeen wants to focus on one-day game after Ashes nightmare
- Moeen lost his World Cup place and was then dropped after first Ashes Test
- Giles insists spinner could return to the Test fold once he refinds his best form
Moeen Ali may have played his last Test after telling England he wants to concentrate on white-ball cricket.
The surprise news that Moeen had been offered just a white-ball deal in England’s latest round of central contracts is explained by the off-spinner’s desire to take a step back from the longer form of the game.
And only the urging of Ashley Giles, England’s team director, for Moeen to leave open the possibility of a change of heart stopped him turning his back on Test cricket for good.
Moeen Ali has turned his back on Test cricket in favour of focusing on one-day format
Moeen endured a nightmare summer with bat and ball, which saw him lose his Ashes place
Moeen has attempted to find his best form for Worcestershire following his England misery
Moeen endured the worst summer of his career in losing his one-day place during the World Cup and then being dropped after the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston when both his bowling and batting began to fall apart.
Now, at 32, he wants to focus predominantly on next year’s Twenty20 World Cup in Australia and time could be running out on him adding to his 60 Tests and 181 wickets.
‘He just wants a little break from Test cricket,’ said Giles. ‘Moeen has been a great servant for this side and that’s why I encouraged him to leave the door open to come back. It’s been a really challenging summer and he might just need to freshen up.’
Moeen’s absence means Jack Leach is now England’s sole specialist spinner in Test cricket
It is a blow for England, not least because their spinning cupboard is largely bare.
Giles did not rule out the possibility of Moeen returning for the two-Test tour of Sri Lanka in March but he will definitely miss the trips to New Zealand and South Africa before that.
There is a big red-ball question mark, too, over leg-spinner Adil Rashid, who admitted this week the shoulder problem that curtailed his season after the World Cup may lead to him again concentrating solely on the limited-overs game.
‘Rash has got stuff to think about too,’ admitted Giles. ‘And with him some of that is physical because Test cricket is more demanding on his shoulder. But for now he’s available for all formats until he tells me otherwise.’
It could be Jack Leach will be England’s sole specialist spinner in New Zealand and South Africa, with Joe Root and Joe Denly offering support, but he will need reinforcements in Sri Lanka. Surrey’s Amir Virdi is the best young slow bowler in the country but is not considered ready for the big stage yet while Somerset’s Dom Bess is more a batsman who bowls.
The other big loser in the new list of central-contracts is Liam Plunkett, who, at 34, probably played his last game for England in the World Cup final after missing out on a deal. ‘He didn’t fit our future needs moving into a new cycle,’ said Giles.
Adil Rashid’s shoulder issues mean he is unlikely to be trusted in New Zealand and South Africa
The team director confirmed Joe Root will stay on as captain to build for the next Ashes in two years time alongside a new coach who could be in place in time for that October tour of New Zealand that takes in two Tests and five Twenty20 internationals.
Giles said on Friday that the process of picking Trevor Bayliss’s successor has started ‘in earnest’ and will appoint an interim coach for New Zealand should his preferred choice not be ready to take over in time.
‘There are some strong candidates out there,’ said Giles, who confirmed that he still wants one head coach for all formats with three assistants working under him. ‘It’s a big appointment for me because it’s my first major one.’
Sportsmail revealed this week that Ireland coach Graham Ford is a strong candidate and he looks certain to join internal contenders Chris Silverwood and Graham Thorpe on the short-list. And another intriguing English candidate has emerged in Surrey’s director of cricket and one of England’s most capped players in Alec Stewart.
Giles is said to be a big fan of Stewart and wants to consider him but it remains to be seen whether he could be lured away from the Oval and would be prepared to commit to the international merry-go-round again at the age of 56.
Liam Plunkett missed out on a central contract despite his heroics during the World Cup