Moeen Ali unlikely to make England squad for Sri Lanka Test tour
Moeen Ali is expected to turn down the opportunity to come back into England’s Test side for next month’s tour of Sri Lanka while James Anderson could be overlooked as he eyes a return from injury.
Despite being England’s joint leading wicket-taker on their last visit to the island in November 2018, as well as admitting recently he had “missed” representing his country, Moeen is set to extend his break from the Test format.
The news of the all-rounder missing this series would be a blow for England in a two-Test series where spin is often critical to the outcome.
Adil Rashid, part of the three prong spin attack alongside Moeen and Jack Leach that was so successful in Sri Lanka last time out, also intends to excuse himself as he would prefer to earn back his England Test place at Yorkshire.
Slow left-armer Leach has supplanted Moeen in recent months as England’s number-one spinner and should be available after illness wrecked his tour of South Africa, where Dom Bess showed encouraging signs in his two outings.
The Somerset pair are likely to be the frontline spin options when England announce their squad later this week while Lancashire leg-spinner Matt Parkinson or Hampshire all-rounder Liam Dawson could provide supplement support.
With Jofra Archer sidelined because of a low grade stress fracture of his right elbow, Anderson seemed to hand England a boost when he declared last Friday he was available as he continues his recovery from a broken rib.
Anderson was only two Tests into his return from a longstanding calf injury when he suffered a fresh blow in South Africa, ruling him out of the final two matches, and England may want to safeguard their record wicket-taker.
The slow and low surfaces of Sri Lanka do not favour seam bowlers, with Anderson taking two wickets in two Tests in England’s 3-0 whitewash victory 14 months ago although the 37-year-old did bowl with immaculate control.
The selectors may want to keep Anderson fresh for the English summer but what could alter their thinking is that each match in Sri Lanka is worth a sizeable 60 points in the World Test Championship.
However, England could mix and match between Stuart Broad, Sam Curran, Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes while, in Archer’s absence, Mark Wood will give England an extreme fast bowling option.
Joe Denly and Jos Buttler will be sweating on their places after modest form in the recent 3-1 win over South Africa.
Denly’s 210 runs at 30 matches his career average after 14 Tests and Jonny Bairstow is breathing down his neck having made a century at number three when England last toured Sri Lanka.
Bairstow may travel as a spare batsman only, which would leave Ben Foakes as the back-up gloveman to Buttler, who could also be reprieved despite failing to reach 30 in any of his eight innings against the Proteas.
England seemed to have cooled on the idea of bringing back Keaton Jennings, whose two Test centuries have come on the sub-continent, meaning Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley are likely to continue their fledgling opening partnership in the absence of the injured Rory Burns.
Potential England squad: J Root (captain), B Stokes (vice-captain), J Bairstow, D Bess, S Broad, J Buttler, Z Crawley, S Curran, L Dawson, J Denly, B Foakes, J Leach, O Pope, D Sibley, C Woakes, M Wood.