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Moeen Ali ready to lead England when Jos Buttler is on paternity leave
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Moeen Ali ready to lead England when Jos Buttler is on paternity leave

Moeen Ali signed off from the 50-over World Cup with a typically ­honest admission that England should turn to the next generation. Although as the 36-year-old heads into the Twenty20 equivalent next month – a tournament in which he could ­captain the side at some point – there are no thoughts of­ international retirement.

Speaking in India last November, Moeen said the players failed to see “the writing was on the wall” and he would “just start again”. As such, having called time on Test cricket after his final-day Ashes heroics last summer, and currently on a one-year central contract, it raised the ­question whether next month in the Caribbean will be his last dance.

“If I’m playing well, I want to carry on,” said Moeen, before England’s second T20 against Pakistan at a sold-out Edgbaston on Saturday. “It could be the World Cup [and done] if I’m not playing so well, or I decide, ‘OK, this is the time.’ But if I’m playing really well, then for my body’s good, then I want to carry on playing for as long as I can.”

This relaxed outlook is in part why Moeen serves as the team’s vice-­captain, although a short-term promotion to lead is on the cards with Jos Buttler’s third child due around the start of the tournament. The timings here are inherently tricky to call but, having stepped up on 13 previous occasions, Moeen is “pretty cool” however it plays out. “Hopefully, the baby comes at the right time where Jos doesn’t miss too many games,” he added.

Buttler’s decision to continue ­captaining the T20 side from behind the stumps also makes Moeen’s role in the field – communicating with the bowlers – important. This may be doubly so given the T20 World Cup in the Caribbean and USA will be the first global tournament in which the match officials deploy a “shot clock”.

England captain Jos Buttler in training at EdgbastonView image in fullscreen

In place for this England-Pakistan series, the big screens at grounds will display a 60-second countdown between overs, triggered when the ball goes dead off the sixth delivery. The fielding side must be ready to bowl the first ball of the next over before the time is up and if not, after two warnings, a third strike will incur a five-run penalty.

“It is going to be strict and these things we can’t take lightly,” said Moeen. “There is a lot of trust within the group and I think bowlers enjoy having me at mid-off a lot of the time, talking to them, so hopefully that can work. [I can] move players and not worry about whether Jos is saying yes or no; he trusts me in terms of that.”

It is one of a few roles that Moeen serves in the side, operating as a utility player with the bat – both his left-handedness and buttery hitting against spin may see him float up and down the order – and an option with the ball on turning tracks. His ­statistics have probably been ­sacrificed here, although for Moeen this flexibility is a source of “pride”.

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“Not everybody can come in and play wherever,” he added. “I do enjoy it because it gives you an opportunity. I am down at No 6 or 7 a lot of the time, but when the captain gives you a nudge and says, ‘get in and go play some shots,’ yeah I enjoy it.”

After Wednesday’s washout in Leeds comes a brighter forecast for this T20i in Moeen’s home city of Birmingham on Saturday, the first of three remaining matches for England and Pakistan to tune up before their transatlantic flights. Judging by the crowd that gathered for the tourists at the nets on Friday – Babar Azam’s men ­obliging with autographs and selfies – both sides can expect vocal support.

Source: theguardian.com