England captain Joe Root hinted Moeen Ali is in contention for a Test recall to South Africa as the spin bowling all-rounder “adds a different dimension” when firing on all cylinders.
Moeen asked for and was granted an indefinite sabbatical from Test cricket shortly after being dropped from the Ashes squad following a torrid time in the Edgbaston opener, while he has since lost his red-ball central contract.
However, at the time of his axing, Moeen was the world’s leading Test wicket-taker over the previous 12 months and he clearly remains highly-regarded in the England camp, even if Jack Leach is now the number one spinner.
If Moeen feels ready to return then it seems he would be under serious consideration to travel to South Africa for a four-Test series which starts next month as he remains a part of Root’s vision for the side going forward.
Root said of a player with 181 wickets in 60 Tests: “I see Moeen as someone who can offer a huge amount to this team.
“He made a decision he wanted a bit of a break from Test cricket and sometimes you do need that.
“You need to freshen your mind up, keep that hunger and desire and know that we’ll have that conversation (about South Africa) with him again, probably in the next couple of weeks, and if he is in that place he always adds value to our team.
“When he’s on form and playing well he offers so much and adds a different dimension to our playing group.
“He’s got to be comfortable and ready to come back to Test cricket but we’re very open to that, for sure.”
Another senior England player not on the current tour of New Zealand is record wicket-taker James Anderson, who is working his way back to fitness following a calf injury that blighted his summer.
The problem meant the 37-year-old missed most of the Ashes but he will travel to Potchefstroom – alongside fellow seamers Craig Overton, Ollie Robinson, Olly Stone and Mark Wood and batsman Jonny Bairstow – for a training camp that runs from December 1-14 with a view to proving his fitness before the Test series against the Proteas.
Having taken 235 Test wickets at an average of 21.6 in the last five years – against a career record of 575 scalps at 26.94 – Anderson was backed in his recovery bid by Root.
The Yorkshireman added: “The one thing we shouldn’t do is start saying he’s coming to the end now because every time that’s been a conversation he’s made it very clear in his performances that it’s not the case.
“While he is performing as he is and has the desire as he’s shown to get himself fit and ready, then you’ve got to make the most of that for sure.”