Day one at Lord’s saw Moeen Ali play his first home Test for England in two years. Cameron Ponsonby reviews the situation that has seen Moeen go from out of a 17-man squad and into the XI.
Yesterday night at 11pm, I received a text. “Hey mate, hope you’re well. Would you like to come to my wedding on Friday? It’s in Yeovil.”
‘Right. Er… yes’, is the answer in my head. It’s an honour to be asked and it’s being held in a pretty stunning location (the house where the ceremony’s being held that is, not Yeovil).
“Dinner and accommodation are all booked and sorted for you already, so just let me know.”
I reply that I’d absolutely love to but have some interviews I need to do on Friday morning and so unless I can get to Yeovil really early and find a place near the venue to do them in I’d be a bit stuck.
“Quietest table booked from 10am for Cameron Ponsonby at the restaurant for the Premier Inn that’s two mins away”, comes the reply.
Right. Errr…guess I’m going to Yeovil then. As more details emerge, it also turns out that the guest I’ve been called up in place of is a high-ranking one. It’s not any old accommodation that I’ll be staying in but the limited space accommodation that’s reserved only for the closest family and friends. In the space of 24 hours I’d gone from afterthought to the most thought-after. An absentee to MVP. An also-ran turned best man. If anything, it’s my big day as much as theirs now really.
And so to Moeen Ali. Earlier this week Moeen wasn’t on England’s invite list to Lord’s; he was busy crashing a white ball into various postcodes of Birmingham when mumblings began that he could be in line for a last-minute call-up to the England squad.
After he had led his Birmingham Phoenix side to a win against the Welsh Fire on Monday, the BBC asked him about the prospect of a recall to the England side.
“Of course if you get the call-up, then playing for England is the highest thing you can get. If I get the call then I’ll be available.”
And he did get the call. And more than that, he ended up in the starting XI. And more than that, his place in the XI now sees him as the fulcrum of the side. It’s not that so much is expected or demanded from Mo, it’s just that so much is required from the role he serves.
A holding role on day one. Wickets on day two. Runs on day three. To lead the attack on day four. And hopefully the winning runs on day five.
It’s not necessarily a slight on England’s selection process as much as it is a quirk of cricket that the life of an all-rounder is so volatile. We don’t need you. Oh wait, now we do. And we need you to do everything, ta.
All this has meant that the man England hadn’t deemed worthy of a place in their Covid-enlarged squad for the first two Tests is suddenly, if not the first name on the team sheet, the most important one. If Mo has a good game, it’s very likely England will too. And to a lesser degree, vice versa.
Before the game, Root was pumping Moeen’s tyres up to this extent. “I would happily give him a huge amount of responsibility if he does play because he responds extremely well to that,” said Root, “He is a leader within the dressing room, a great personality, he drags people with him on the field and in the dressing room, so it will be great to have him back around.”
Having been on the outskirts of the England team for two years, playing just one Test match in that time, Moeen has finally returned to the heart of the England Test XI, for better or for worse. In their sickness and his health. Forever and ever. I do.
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