Uncertainty over Moeen Ali’s return for England’s tour of Sri Lanka: Ed Smith

Moeen had asked for a sabbatical from Test cricket at the end of the 2019 English summer.

Moeen Ali of England
Moeen Ali of England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

England all-rounder Moeen Ali’s Test future looks uncertain after he ignored a recall for the team’s tour of South Africa, with the first of the four-match Test series scheduled to play at SuperSport Park Cricket Stadium, Centurion on December 26. It is to be noted that England wanted Moeen Ali to feature in the 17-man squad that departs from London next Friday. Ali has been statistically good in numbers with 181 wickets to his name and is also the fourth most productive spinner in England’s history.

Needless to say, the 32-year-old will not be taking part in the upcoming tour following rounds of discussion with captain Joe Root, national selector Ed Smith and his deputy James Taylor. Moeen failed to earn the trust of the selectors and as a result, he lost his place in the England side during the Ashes. In his most recent Tests, he was far from being impressive with the willow as he averaged a paltry 10 in five Tests in 2019.


England will play three ODIs after playing four Tests. Moeen had asked for a sabbatical from Test cricket at the end of the 2019 English summer. However, his absence does not apply to white-ball cricket and it would be an absolute shocker if he did not return to the team’s set-up to play the limited-overs series in South Africa tour.

“He asked to take a break from Test cricket at the back end of last summer and that is what has happened. At this stage, we don’t know when he will return to being available for Test cricket but it’s our hope that he does. We all know that Moeen is a talented and valued cricketer for England. But we don’t know if and when that might happen,” Smith was quoted as saying by ESPNCricinfo.

Moeen Ali’s return would add a great dimension to overall balance of England

However, Smith hopes that Moeen could turn up for the Sri Lanka tour, where he played a substantial role in the team’s 3-0 victory a year ago. At the same time, Ed Smith confessed that there was no assurance that Moeen would return for that tour.

“I don’t think it’s ruled out and it’s also by no means certain he will be available,” Smith said. “At the moment there’s no time frame. But what I did discuss with Moeen – what we all discussed with him – was our aspiration that he’s available to play Test cricket for England. He’s a valued England cricketer. From my point of view and a selection view, the sooner he was available the better and that would include Sri Lanka.

“He did say that there are more Test runs and more Test wickets in him and that was very encouraging. It’s disappointing when a player of Moeen’s ability and track record is unavailable for selection. In an ideal world, we’d like Moeen to be available.”

England have their own set of problems to sort out as they have picked just 21 wickets in the two Tests during their tour of New Zealand. They went into the second Test without a frontline spinner for the very first time since the year 2013. However, they remain hopeful of Moeen’s return against Sri Lanka as it would add a great dimension to the overall balance of the team.