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England selection chief glad Moeen Ali available again

Appealing prospect - England off-spinner Moeen Ali wants to play Test cricket again
Appealing prospect - England off-spinner Moeen Ali wants to play Test cricket again ISHARA S. KODIKARA AFP
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London (AFP)

Moeen Ali moved nearer to a first Test appearance in almost a year after England national selector Ed Smith confirmed his place in a 30-man training group for next month's series at home to the West Indies.

Off-spinning all-rounder Moeen was dropped by England during the Ashes last year.

The 32-year-old opted out of Test tours of South Africa and Sri Lanka, citing fatigue and saying he felt he had been made a scapegoat for England defeats, as he concentrated on white-ball international cricket.

But he will now be vying with spinners Dom Bess and Jack Leach for a place in the side for the three-Test series against the West Indies.

The series, taking place behind closed doors, starts at Hampshire's Ageas Bowl on July 8 before concluding with back-to-back fixtures at Old Trafford.

With 181 wickets from 60 Tests, Moeen is a far more experienced bowler than spin rivals Bess and Leach and he was also England's leading wicket-taker when they lost 2-1 in the Caribbean last year.

- 'Significant contributor' -

"In a number of conversations over the winter, and also more recently, Moeen has indicated he wants to be considered for selection in all formats and he's available for selection," said Smith during a conference call on Wednesday.

"That's good news."

The former England batsman said: "As a selector we always want the most amount of talent to pick from so we're pleased Moeen is available again.

"One thing I've always felt as a selector is that it's always good news if you increase the talent pool -- whether that's Adil Rashid returning to Test cricket or Moeen Ali saying he's available for Test cricket again.

"Moeen is a valued member of the England set-up and across formats he's been a significant contributor."

A group featuring eight uncapped players will meet at the Ageas Bowl on June 23 and remain there as they prepare for an intra-squad match from July 1 to July 3.

That will be their first game of the English summer after the coronavirus brought world cricket to a halt in March.

"It is a great opportunity for that group of players to join up with an England training group and to rub shoulders with the best players in the country and the established players in the Test team," said Smith.

"For younger bowlers to bowl at the best batsmen and for younger batsmen to face the best bowlers, what a fantastic opportunity for them."

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