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Joe Root hints Moeen Ali could return for South Africa Tests

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Joe Root has suggested Moeen Ali could be recalled to the England Test squad for the tour of South Africa.

Moeen had requested for an indefinite break from Test cricket after a draining summer which ended with him being dropped from the Test side and given only a white-ball central contract.

But the England management remains acutely aware of Moeen’s potential value to the team as a spin-bowling allrounder and Root confirmed they were “very open” to his return. As a result, a conversation between the team management and Moeen will take place in the next couple of weeks to assess his readiness to return.

“I see Moeen as someone who can offer a huge amount to this team,” Root said ahead of England’s first Test of their New Zealand tour. “He made a decision he wanted a bit of a break from Test cricket and sometimes you do need that. You need to freshen your mind up to keep that hunger and desire.

“We’ll have that conversation with him again, probably in the next couple of weeks. If he is in that [good] place he always adds value to our team. When he’s on form and playing well he offers so much and adds a different dimension to our playing group. He’s got to be comfortable and ready to come back to Test cricket but we’re very open to that, for sure.”

Moeen’s return would probably be bad news for Jack Leach. But if, as expected, James Anderson returns to the Test team in South Africa, England may be concerned by the length of a tail which could start at No. 8 and consist of Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, Anderson and Leach.

In the end, it may well depend on how Leach fares in New Zealand. He struggled for penetration in the warm-up matches – he has taken one wicket in 56 overs so far on the tour – but provided good control in conceding just 2.15 runs per over in the first innings and 2.46 in the second of the match against New Zealand A. He also enjoyed a more than respectable Ashes series, claiming 12 wickets at a cost of 25.83 apiece.

He has proved a determined lower-order batsman, too. As well as scoring 92 against Ireland at Lord’s, he provided fine support to Ben Stokes as England put on 76 for the final wicket to win the dramatic Test at Headingley.

The issue with Moeen is the difference, at times, between his potential and his performance. At his best, Moeen, with five Test centuries, is a fine batsman. But in his final months in the side, he was unrecognisable from the player he had been. He has not scored a Test century in 43 innings since 2016 and, since the start of the Sri Lanka tour almost exactly a year ago, has averaged 11.20 in eight Tests. In that time he was dismissed for a duck five times and passed 13 only three times.

At the time he was dropped, however, he was the top Test wicket-taker in the world over the previous 12-months having finished both the Sri Lanka and the West Indies tours as England’s leading wicket-taker, though in Sri Lanka Leach took the same number. And while there are times he can be expensive, he has now claimed 181 Test wickets at a better strike rate (60.60) than that achieved by those perceived as England’s former great spinners such as Derek Underwood (73.60), Jim Laker (62.30), Hedley Verity (77.50) or Fred Titmus (98.80). Graeme Swann, by comparison, had a strike rate of 60.10.

In recent weeks, Moeen has been playing T20 and T10 cricket in South Africa and the UAE. But it will be his mental state the England management want to assess and, if they are convinced he is refreshed and energised for a return, it may well prove hard to leave him out of the Test squad. With a T20 World Cup in less than a year, Moeen is almost certain to return to the England squads for the limited-overs section of the tour.

Root also suggested Mark Wood and Anderson should be in contention for selection for South Africa. Both were ruled out of the New Zealand series due to injuries – they both missed almost the entire Ashes series, too – but they have stepped up their rehabilitation in recent days and are currently bowling outdoors in Spain. Both bowlers are also part of a training squad heading to Potchefstroom at the start of December.

“They very much have a chance to push for selection,” Root said. “They are working very hard and getting overs in their legs outside. They’re currently in Spain and they’ll go out to Potch to further that fitness. Hopefully, by the end of this tour when it comes round to selection, we’ll have a lot more information on whether they are fit and available for selection.

“In the last couple of years Jimmy has probably been at his peak. He’s still finding ways to exploit conditions, take wickets and lead the attack. His desire and hunger and the way he’s going about his rehab just shows how desperate he is to keep playing.”



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Recent Match Report – Tasmania vs Queensland, Sheffield Shield, 14th Match

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Queensland 240 (Heazlett 135, Bird 3-55) and 0 for 18 beat Tasmania 107 (Steketee 5-19) and 150 (Bailey 82, Steketee 4-32) by ten wickets

Mark Steketee made the most of helpful conditions for pacemen at Hobart’s Bellerive Oval to complete a first-class career-best match haul of 9 for 51, and Sam Heazlett hit 135 in the first innings to lead Queensland to a ten-wicket win, inside two days, over Tasmania.

Steketee’s 5 for 19 in the first innings – also his innings best – had shot Tasmania out for 107 on the first day before Heazlett led the reply, ending the day on 54 as Queensland got to within nine runs of the Tasmania total. On the second day, Heazlett completed his fourth first-class century, and went on to score 135 in just 198 balls, his career-best score studded with 20 fours and a six.

He got decent support on the second day from No. 10 Mitchell Swepson, who hung around for 36 balls, and hit six fours in an innings of 37 before becoming the ninth man out. The total was 9 for 219 then, and Heazlett then stepped up the scoring to add 21 for the final wicket with Billy Stanlake, who faced six balls without scoring a run.

That gave Queensland a 133-run first-innings lead, which Steketee built on with three wickets within the fifth over of Tasmania’s second innings. Steketee sent back Jordan Silk first in his second over and then, in his third, accounted for Alex Doolan and Ben McDermott as well. With Cameron Gannon dismissing Beau Webster, Tasmania were 4 for 15 after five overs, looking at going down by an innings.

That it didn’t happen was chiefly because of Australia’s new selector George Bailey. Coming in at No. 4, Bailey did what he could with the remainder of the batsmen, scoring 82 in 157 balls with 13 fours before becoming the ninth man out. The next highest for Tasmania was Jackson Bird’s 22 as Steketee’s 4 for 32, Gannon’s 2 for 36 and Jack Wildermuth’s 2 for 24 shot them out for 150.

The target of 18 runs was knocked off in 5.3 overs by Bryce Street and Matt Renshaw.



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Recent Match Report – Western Australia vs South Australia, Sheffield Shield, 15th Match

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South Australia 6 for 124 (Hunt 36, Stoinis 2-11) trail Western Australia 8 for 492 dec (Green 126, Inglis 91) by 368 runs

Western Australia quicks reduced South Australia to 124 for 6 to leave them trailing by 368 runs at the WACA on day two. Earlier in the day, Cameron Green‘s second ton of the season, along with handy lower-order contributions from Josh Inglis, Ashton Agar and Joel Paris, took the hosts to 8 for 492 dec.

Green continued his impressive recent form to help Western Australia out of trouble after they were reduced to 94 for 4 on the opening day. Resuming on 95, Green brought up his ton on the fifth ball he faced, with the No. 7 Inglis batting on 44 at the other end. The duo went on to put up a 139-run stand to take the team’s total past 300, before Adam Zampa got the breakthrough by pinning Green in front for 126.

Inglis, joined by Agar, then cruised to his highest first-class score of 91, while the latter also brought up a half-century of his own. Zampa came back to dismiss Inglis shortly before lunch but another fruitful partnership, between Agar and Paris, followed. The pair went on to add 102 for the eighth wicket before Zampa made Agar his third victim. Western Australia declared at that point.

In response, South Australia lost their opener Jake Weatherald within the first six overs following which Henry Hunt and Callum Ferguson came together for a 45-run second-wicket stand. David Moody triggered a mini collapse with Ferguson’s wicket, as South Australia lost four wickets for 24 runs in the middle, with Marcus Stoinis picking two wickets and Paris snaring one. Liam Scott then joined captain Alex Carey at the crease, as they pushed the total past 100. Scott was run out in the last over bowled on the day, after which Zampa joined Carey at the crease and the duo are set to resume batting tomorrow.



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How Tim Paine gave David Warner five extra minutes for ‘a massive achievement’ | Cricket

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David Warner takes a bow as he leaves the field © Getty Images


David Warner has revealed that Australia captain Tim Paine had extended a predetermined cut-off time for the innings to allow the opener to pass the 334-run record jointly held by Donald Bradman and Mark Taylor as the nation’s second highest Test score.

The agreed time to end Australia’s domineering innings against Pakistan was 5.40pm Adelaide time, at which point Warner had equalled but not passed 334. However, Paine sent out the message that Warner had time to go to 335 before he closed the innings, allowing the 33-year-old opener to write a fresh page of Australian cricket history a little more than 18 months after the Newlands scandal that had threatened to leave his name more associated with ball tampering than batting. Paine called Warner in immediately after the final single at about 5.45pm.

There was never any question in Warner’s mind – or that of others – about batting long enough to challenge Brian Lara’s world record 400* against England, or Matthew Hayden’s 380 against Zimbabwe. This was due to a grim weather forecast, with the time gained on the second evening allowing the Australians to rip out six Pakistan wickets before stumps, leaving only 14 more to get for a series sweep.

ALSO READ: Brettig – ‘Ironman’ David Warner’s 335-run journey from ignominy to history

“I don’t think so at all. We really looked at the weather that’s around tomorrow, we wanted to give ourselves a lot of time,” Warner explained after the day’s play. “If we could have the amount of overs we got tonight and try to get a couple of wickets, we’ve managed to get six wickets down, if there is a bit of rain about tomorrow, the bowlers get a good rest, only have to come out and try to get 14 wickets in the last two days, so it wasn’t a thing in our mind to go out there and try to get that record or anything.

“The first person I asked was [Steven] Smithy when I was out there batting. I said how many overs do you reckon we’ll have at them tonight, and it was literally that perfect amount. Then I came in, I think at that [tea] break, and I said ‘when are we declaring’, and they said ‘5.40pm’ and I said ‘ok’. I kept on asking when we were out there, we got to five, then ten past five, and I was making sure that was still the message and it was. Until I think that last over before, it just ticked over [5.40pm] and Painey wanted me to try and get past that 334 mark.”

Reflecting on the innings, Warner said he had wanted to “make a statement” in the wake of his poor Ashes tour. “It is obviously a massive achievement. But for me, it is always about coming out here and trying to make a statement,” he told Fox Cricket. “Through my poor form in England, but to come back to Australia and put back-to-back performances on the board and have that consistency back here and start the summer well for our team, that is what I was more proud of myself for.



It is obviously a massive achievement. But for me, it is always about coming out here and trying to make a statement

“Yeah 100% I was aware of it [the history]. You grow up knowing what those milestones are. Forever you talk about Donald Bradman. I remember Michael Clarke at the SCG declared on 329 not out. They’re things that you look at the history books and say, ‘how did they get there – that’s a long time in the middle’. I managed to go out there and do that but it takes an incredible amount of patience which I surprised myself.”

Looking back on a grim Ashes series, Warner said that he had learned a valuable lesson about backing his own game rather than listening to too many voices, however well-meaning, about how he should play against the moving ball. “You’re going to have people who doubt you, and through that whole series I said ‘I wasn’t out of form, I was out of runs’,” he said. “If I had my time again I would’ve not changed my guard, I wouldn’t have listened to some external noises, I would’ve backed myself more and bat where I have been here outside off, leaving the ball patiently, getting my bat and pad closer together and under my nose, and I am capable of that.

“I just think in England you can get caught up in playing too much in front [of the body], especially with the way I play, so I’ve had to regroup coming back from England, I’ve hit 3500-4000 balls leading into Brisbane and here as well I batted for a good two hours per session as well.

“It’s not by chance that I’ve actually tightened all that up, I’ve actually been working really hard on it in the nets, it’s one of those things where I’m a very confident person, whether I scored these runs or didn’t score these runs, I still hold my head up high and have that little smirk on my face that I always have.”

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig


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