It did seem the perfect answer. England need at least a second decent spinner, if not a third, for their Test tour of Pakistan and Brendon McCullum looked to the best options when he asked Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid to consider coming out of red-ball retirement.
Moeen, in particular, appeared enthusiastic when he talked, during the Trent Bridge Test against New Zealand earlier this summer, of the persuasive nature of the coach and how his game is so well suited to the Ben Stokes-McCullum revolution.
Alas, it now seems unlikely. Rashid was never a serious contender because he does not have his heart (or shoulder) in red-ball cricket, but it came as a disappointment to hear Moeen play down his interest in travelling for the three-Test tour in December.
Coach Brendon McCullum faces a selection headache over who to pick to back up Jack Leach
Leach will hope to find joy on pitches that should play into his hands on the Pakistan tour
As the stand-in England T20 captain said in his new Sportsmail column this week, his mind is not made up and McCullum’s powers of persuasion may yet hold sway. But Moeen clearly has issues about returning to another ‘bubble’ because of the high security in Pakistan, while it should be remembered he remains first and foremost a white-ball player and has committed to the new T20 league in the United Arab Emirates in January. He is facing, along with the T20 World Cup that follows immediately after the seven-match series that began in Karachi yesterday, another long spell away from home.
So, if not Moeen then who should back up Jack Leach (right), who is a definite starter even though it is odd England should not want him to play in Somerset’s last two Championship games. Leach, you would have thought, could have done with a few more overs under his belt.
He plays in the first Test in Rawalpindi on December 1 and it could be that England feel their slow bowling needs are satisfied by the addition of Joe Root’s off-spin and even the part-time offerings of Harry Brook.
The New Zealander appears to have tried and failed to prise Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid out of retirement for this particular tour
But they will need at least one more specialist in the squad, even though Pakistan’s pitches are unlikely to replicate the dust-bowls so often found in India. And, as ever with English spin, the cupboard is worryingly bare.
England have taken Matt Parkinson around the world over the last couple of years without ever seemingly wanting to play him and his absence from the T20 squad appears telling. It could be England have finally decided what they suspected all along, that Parkinson does not bowl quickly enough, even as a leg spinner, for international cricket.
There are some promising young spinners around the counties, even though one of the best of them, Amar Virdi, seems to have gone backwards at Surrey.
England’s Moeen Ali is set to asses whether he wants to continue his Test career this winter while with the white ball side in Pakistan
Ali recently reversed his decision to retire from Test cricket under coach McCullum but it seems unlikely he will play this winter
Rehan Ahmed at Leicestershire is perhaps the best but he might be more of a white-ball prospect, while surely it is too early for Jack Carson, 21, at Sussex.
That leaves us with Yorkshire’s Dom Bess, who still seems to have a lot of work to do to become a Test spinner, and Hampshire’s Liam Dawson, who maybe now is the favourite.
At first glance, Dawson does not seem the sort of exciting cricketer associated with Bazball. He is more pragmatic than dynamic, and Stokes and McCullum don’t do pragmatism. But Dawson, 32, is a fine all-rounder and former England coach Trevor Bayliss, another who advocates positive red-ball cricket, rated him highly as soon as he saw him.
Dawson it may be, then, unless Moeen can be persuaded to have one last Test hurrah in the land which has such an emotional pull for him. Come on Mo, say yes to McCullum and jump on board the bandwagon. You are, after all, a long time retired.
Adil Rashid’s heart (and shoulder) does not appear to be in the red ball game having struggled
Temporary renaming of the Oval in Stewart Snr’s honour the perfect tribute
How fitting that the Oval has been renamed temporarily in Micky Stewart’s honour as title-chasing Surrey play their last home Championship game of the season against Yorkshire this week. What a servant to the famous old club Stewart Snr has been and what a key figure he was for England, as their first modern coach.
It would be the perfect tribute to Micky and son Alec if Surrey were to win this week and go on to clinch the title. As Hampshire collapsed to 57 all out last night in reply to Kent’s 165, Surrey’s 20th Championship crown moved even closer.
The temporary renaming of the famous old ground to be known as the Micky Stewart Oval was a fitting touch from Surrey
Evison deserved the plaudits from Kent’s glory at Lord’s last week
All eyes, rightly, were on Darren Stevens when Kent won the Royal London Cup and their victory over Lancashire was the perfect finale to the 46-year-old’s extraordinary career at Canterbury.
But it was Joey Evison, a player 26 years Stevens’ junior, who deserved the plaudits for his all-round contribution to Kent’s narrow win. Evison, a product of Stamford School and another Kent stalwart Dean Headley, will become a fixture at Canterbury next season after initially arriving on loan from Notts. He is Kent’s future, while Stevens seeks one last hurrah as player-coach at Leicestershire or Glamorgan.
Darren Steves, naturally, took the plaudits Joey Evison deserves plenty of credit for his performance in the Royal London Cup final