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PAUL NEWMAN: Lurking Moeen Ali puts pressure on England’s Jack Leach

PAUL NEWMAN: Lurking Moeen Ali puts pressure on England’s Jack Leach…

  • Moeen Ali has been open about his desire to return to the Test cricket fold
  • It could come later this year for the Pakistan tour, amid Jack Leach’s struggles
  • Steve Harmison, meanwhile, would be a great pick for the National Selector job

There was an elephant in the room during England’s sensational second Test win high at the Radcliffe Road stand at Trent Bridge in the unlikely form of Moeen Ali.

Moeen was an insightful natural when he joined the Test Match Special team for two days of the Nottingham epic, but it was confirmed Sports emails revealing that he had made himself available again for Test cricket which aroused the most interest.

It certainly couldn’t have been easy for incumbent spinner Jack Leach to hear Moeen said he’d been in talks with Brendon McCullum twice about a return as he toiled to impress against New Zealand on a flat field.

Moeen Ali has indicated he wants to return to Test cricket since Brendon McCullum came in

Moeen Ali has indicated he wants to return to Test cricket since Brendon McCullum came in

To be fair, Moeen only gave honest answers to questions put to him on the air and he went out of his way to point out that he didn’t want to replace Leach or Matt Parkinson. Instead, he’d just told McCullum that he was “not retired” if needed.

But it is significant that McCullum was so quick on the phone when he became England coach for an off-spin bowling all-rounder he knows well from the Indian Premier League and has also approached Adil Rashid about a possible Test comeback.

The bottom line is that Leach is struggling to gain a place elsewhere than on turning fields, as his lack of variety, drift and tempo changes at Trent Bridge showed, despite Ben Stokes’ efforts to put confidence in him.

Leach looks certain to play in the third Test at Headingley next week and in all likelihood the one-off game against India at Edgbaston soon to follow, but otherwise his future for England is uncertain.

Conventional logic suggests Moeen would have to play red ball cricket again for Worcestershire before he can be considered by England and if he is serious he could have played Durham this week rather than star in the commentary field.

Current spinner Jack Leach has struggled to establish himself in recent matches

Current spinner Jack Leach has struggled to establish himself in recent matches

But it can safely be said that conventional thinking is now a bunk, with Jonny Bairstow arriving from the IPL to make one of the great Test centuries in Nottingham. McCullum was a veteran in his playing days of switching quickly and effortlessly between red and white ball.

There is no doubt that McCullum was thinking of this winter’s three-Test tour of Pakistan when he contacted Moeen, who also told the TMS audience that it is a tour, with its historical and cultural significance, that appeals to him immensely. .

So the ‘comeback’ may only begin in Pakistan and may not even last longer, with Moeen still a key member of England’s whiteball teams and an overcrowded calendar requiring more and more segregation of white and red sides.

But the new regime in England has made no secret of the fact that they want to pick the best team for the match ahead and by that criterion Moeen should be lining up against New Zealand in Leeds and India in Birmingham. It’s up to Leach to prove otherwise.

TRENT BRIDGE BUNCE

What a relief it was from Nottinghamshire to make entry free for what turned out to be an unforgettable final day of the second test, a move that paid off immediately, not only in terms of public relations, but also in sales of bars and merchandise.

But the World of Cricket understands that there was another advantage for Notts and it came in the form of an additional 1,300 tickets sold to those in attendance on the final day before Friday’s Vitality Blast game at Trent Bridge against Birmingham.

At a time when ticket prices are closely monitored and both Test and Twenty20 cricket have to compete for an audience – with the ECB preferring to promote and prioritize their troubled child the Hundred – Notts’ foresight is a welcome boost.

Trent Bridge deserves a lot of credit for letting fans in for free on day five of the test match

Trent Bridge deserves a lot of credit for letting fans in for free on day five of the test match

HARMISON CAN BE AN INSPIRED CHOICE

Steve Harmison, who has become one of the best and most ruthless experts in English cricket, spoke on his excellent talkSPORT podcast about his desire to put his name in the frame for the Test national selection position yet to be filled by England.

There was only one problem, Harmison said. He didn’t want to bother the guy who’s going to make the appointment because Rob Key is one of his best friends.

Harmonison needn’t worry. Wise and sensible enough not to let friendship get in the way of the right decision, Key has already proven his acumen with what appears to be an inspired double act of appointments to Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum.

If Harmison is the right man, Key wouldn’t hesitate to approach him. It just might be, with the experience and nous of the former fast bowler, another inspired choice.

Steve Harmison would be a smart appointment to fill the vacant National Selector position

Steve Harmison would be a smart appointment to fill the vacant National Selector position

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