Birmingham: Moeen Ali took himself out of the England attack and off the field in a critical period of the first test against Australia Monday because of a blistered spinning finger that has caused him grief for much of the match at Edgbaston.
Moments earlier, he had served up a poor over — a full toss then two short balls, the second of which Marnus Labuschagne carved to the boundary — to highlight the issue he was having in his first test for nearly two years after coming out of retirement in cricket’s longest format.
His finger opened up when bowling in Australia’s first innings. He had to go off for treatment then, too.
It left briefly England without a frontline spinner in its bid to stop Australia chasing down 281 to win — though he did return, with a patched-up finger, to bowl one more over just before stumps — and surely leaves Ali’s availability in question for the second test at Lord’s next week.
Ali’s latest stint in test cricket might yet only last one match.
“(It’s a problem) for tomorrow and the rest of the series,” former England captain Eoin Morgan told Sky Sports. “They have plucked him from almost obscurity and he’s bowling a huge volume.
“That over (against Labuschagne), with those three deliveries, he actually bowled himself out of the attack, which happens very, very rarely, particularly in test matches. Yes, you are exposed the whole time but this very rarely happens. There is a clear hindrance, him trying to bowl.”
Ali bowled 33 overs in Australia’s first innings, quite the workload for a player who has only played the shorter formats since September 2021.
He was brought back despite a lack of first-class cricket in something of a gamble by Stokes, following an injury to first-choice spinner Jack Leach that has ruled him out of the entire series.
Weather conditions might see England rely less on spin on Day 5 anyway, when Australia will resume on 107-3 and still needing 174 more runs.
“If conditions are how we think they are going to be – the overhead, with possibly swing and sea on offer — we won’t see a lot of Moeen Ali,” Morgan said.