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Moeen Ali considers Test retirement U-turn after SOS call from Brendon McCullum

Moeen Ali is considering coming out of retirement from Test cricket after receiving an SOS call from England coach Brendon McCullum to return for the Ashes.

England’s prospects against Australia were dealt a hammer blow on Sunday when frontline spinner Jack Leach was ruled out of the entire series with a stress fracture of the back.

Now i understands McCullum has contacted Ali asking if he would come to England’s aid to play a key role in helping win back the urn against the Australians.

England have delayed announcing a replacement for Leach, who has played all 13 Tests since McCullum and captain Ben Stokes came together at the start of last summer.

But with the Ashes starting at Edgbaston on Friday week, McCullum has asked him to come back into the squad for the first two Tests that was named on Saturday.

Ali has not played Test cricket since September 2021 and told McCullum last October he was finished with red-ball cricket after being approached ahead of England’s tour of Pakistan last winter.

At 35, Ali has vast experience, with 195 wickets and five hundreds from 64 Tests. He would also be an attacking option with the ball, with his off-spin potentially a big plus given four of Australia’s top seven batters are left-handers.

i understands that after McCullum’s initial approach, Ali has yet to decide if he will return for the series against Australia.

But England hope the lure of the Ashes and McCullum’s persuasiveness will tempt him to make a dramatic return to Test cricket.

With few ready-made spin options to replace Leach, Ali, who has yet to play under the new regime, would be the perfect fit for England’s aggressive new style. As well as his bowling, he would also significantly bolster England’s batting from No 8.

The call from McCullum is no surprise given England’s lack of ready-made spin replacements for Leach.

Two other contenders in teenage leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed, who took seven wickets in his only Test to date in Karachi last December, and Surrey’s Will Jacks both lack experience and would be huge risks to pitch into the pressure-cooker environment of an Ashes series. The 33-year-old Liam Dawson, who last played a Test in 2017, would be a steady pick but might not fit with England’s aggressive approach McCullum and Stokes have fostered.

Ali would tick the boxes in terms of both experience and X-factor. And Stuart Broad has admitted he would be the ideal replacement to be parachuted into the squad ahead of the most eagerly-anticipated Ashes series in a generation.

Chennai Super Kings' Moeen Ali (R) plays a shot during the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match between Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur on April 27, 2023. (Photo by Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP) (Photo by SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP via Getty Images)
Moeen Ali in action for Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League (Photo: Getty)

Broad, who admitted he was “gutted” for Leach, told Sky Sports: “We know Mo’s a fantastic cricketer, a phenomenal cricketer and someone who would fit into Stokesy and Baz’s philosophy beautifully. I don’t know if he’d consider red-ball cricket again. But he’s a mighty fine cricketer.”

The unlikely figure of former Australia captain Michael Clarke also called for England to call up Ali, saying: “What do they do now? There’s some other England spinners playing in country cricket but geez [sic], it’s a big step up from playing there to play Australia in the Ashes. I think they’ve got to consider Moeen Ali. I know he’s retired from Test cricket recently but I think because he offers bat, bowl, field makes some handy runs at the bottom of the order – very good fieldsman, I actually think it would be worth a conversation for this series to bring him back.”

Ollie Pope, meanwhile, admits he would be ready to lead England during the Ashes if Stokes’ knee injury ruled him out of any of the five Tests. Pope, named vice-captain at the start of the summer, said: “It’s going to take a hell of a lot for him not to be on the pitch even for a day’s play, knowing what he’s like. But if it did happen, I feel confident. I’ve got a pretty good understanding of how he runs things now and, if needs be, can implement the same ideas.”

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