Moeen eager for 'fresh start' after ending Test exile

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30 Apr 2020 | 07:23 AM
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Moeen eager for 'fresh start' after ending Test exile

Moeen also called for a year's delay to the start of the new Hundred as officials met to consider the fate of the controversial competition

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Moeen Ali is keen to make a "fresh start" and regain his place in England's Test side after ending his self-imposed exile from the five-day game.

The off-spinning allrounder was dropped by England following a poor display in last year's Ashes opener and then lost his England central contract.

Moeen then decided to take a break from Test cricket that saw him miss series' in New Zealand and South Africa.

He also made himself unavailable for this year's tour of Sri Lanka, cut short before the internationals by the coronavirus, even though he'd taken 18 wickets at an impressive average of 24.5 during England's last visit to the island 18 months ago.

But now, with 181 wickets in 60 Tests behind him, Moeen is ready to fight for his place in Joe Root's XI once again despite the competition from the likes of fellow spinners Jack Leach and Dom Bess.

"For sure if I got the call tomorrow to play I would definitely put my hand up," Moeen told reporters via video link on Wednesday (29th April).

"I will be available to play any cricket now. I still back myself to get back into the side at some stage."

Moeen, 32, had previously spoken of how he felt he'd been made a scapegoat for England defeats but he stressed his mood was now far more positive after a break from Test duty.

"I absolutely love Test cricket and I just almost had a fresh start and that's hopefully what has happened over the last year or so, it's probably made me a better bowler. It's put me in a better mindset.

"I don't want to keep going on about it now, I just want to move forward and try to enjoy my cricket again."

PSL problems

Moeen, a member of England's victorious 2019 World Cup squad, continued to play limited overs internationals during his Test absence.

He also featured in the recent Pakistan Super League before the pandemic cut short his stint in that event.

His final few PSL games were played behind closed doors.

It was not an experience he enjoyed but with the start of the English season delayed until July 1, it may be one Moeen has to repeat given any resumption of cricket is likely to see spectators banned from venues on health grounds.

"We played in the PSL the last two or three games with no one in the crowd and it was so bad," he said. 

"It's different and it's not quite the same. It felt like those warm-up games you play before a big series.

"It's not ideal. Not everybody wants to play in an empty stadium. But it will probably have to be the case for a while."

Meanwhile Mooen, who has been "ticking over" playing cricket with his six-year-old son in an outdoor net in the garden, said players needed to be sensitive to the impact of COVID-19, which has already caused thousands of deaths in Britain alone, as well as their own health fears, when it came to talk of starting the season.

"With so many people dying around the world -- and in this country in particular -- it's difficult for the players to really switch on," the Worcestershire star explained.

"At the moment it's too early. Hopefully sport will be back on soon but when the time is right, everyone is safe and the players don't feel like they're going out to play and they might get it."

Calls for 'Hundred' delay

Moeen called for a year's delay to the start of the new Hundred as officials met to consider the fate of the controversial competition.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have long insisted the new 100-balls-per-side format, to be played by eight franchises rather than English cricket's established 18 first-class counties, is vital in attracting a new audience to the game.

But with world cricket at a standstill due to the pandemic, Moeen fears that even if the Hundred does get the go-ahead, health and travel restrictions may make it impossible to bring in high-profile overseas stars.

"It is better for it to be delayed," Moeen, set to captain the Birmingham Phoenix in the Hundred, said during a conference call on Wednesday.

"As players we want the Hundred played with all the best players around the world available to come and play so it makes more sense that way. It is probably going to be too much to squeeze in the last couple of months of the season. 

"It would be hard work to squeeze in the Hundred as well. It is such a big deal for us in this country and we want it to be played when everything is right and there are no problems around the world." 

Last week, the ECB further delayed the start of the 2020 season until July 1 at the earliest.

It said the inaugural Hundred, meant to start in July, would be on the agenda for a meeting on Wednesday.

There is now an increasing acceptance that if the 2020 English season does get under way, matches will have to be played behind closed doors, which would prevent the Hundred achieving one of its stated aims of drawing fresh crowds to cricket.

The ECB had planned to use the enthusiasm generated by England's dramatic 2019 World Cup win as a springboard for promoting the game this year.

World Cup-winning squad member Moeen was asked if it would be harder to attract a new audience if the Hundred were held over until 2021.

"I'm not sure," he said. "The mood and wave cricket was on in England last year made it an amazing opportunity this year to play the Hundred, but obviously with what has happened around the world that is going to be harder now."

The 32-year-old Worcestershire star added: "If we can get other international players who were not available this year to make the Hundred even stronger for next year through a mini-draft then we can attract a new audience to come and watch cricket."

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