England name 30-man training group for West Indies series
Moeen Ali has moved a step closer to a return to Test cricket after being named in England’s training group for the series against West Indies.
The all-rounder, 32, took a break from the longest format after being dropped during last summer’s Ashes series.
There are eight uncapped players in a 30-strong group that will begin training in Southampton on June 23. They will play a three-day practice game from July 1, after which a squad will be chosen for the first Test.
The three-match series against West Indies, which will be played behind closed doors in a bio-secure environment, starts on July 8 at the same venue.
England training group: Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), James Anderson (Lancashire), Jofra Archer (Sussex), Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire), Dom Bess (Somerset), James Bracey (Gloucestershire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Rory Burns (Surrey), Jos Buttler (Lancashire), Zak Crawley (Kent), Sam Curran (Surrey), Joe Denly (Kent), Ben Foakes (Surrey), Lewis Gregory (Somerset), Keaton Jennings (Lancashire), Dan Lawrence (Essex), Jack Leach (Somerset), Saqib Mahmood (Lancashire), Craig Overton (Somerset), Jamie Overton (Somerset), Matthew Parkinson (Lancashire), Ollie Pope (Surrey), Ollie Robinson (Sussex), Joe Root (Yorkshire), Dom Sibley (Warwickshire), Ben Stokes (Durham), Olly Stone (Warwickshire), Amar Virdi (Surrey), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire), Mark Wood (Durham).
After the coronavirus pandemic forced the start of the season to be delayed, England invited 55 players to return to training at the end of May.
“It’s a really good opportunity to look at players who have had very good Lions tours, for example,” national selector Ed Smith told BBC Sport.
“It will be great to see them rubbing shoulders and locking horns with England incumbents.”
Gloucestershire’s James Bracey is one of four wicketkeepers in the group, which also features Essex batsman Dan Lawrence.
It includes pace bowlers Saqib Mahmood of Lancashire, Sussex’s Ollie Robinson, pace bowler Jamie Overton and Somerset team-mate and all-rounder Lewis Gregory.
Lancashire leg-spinner Matt Parkinson, who toured South Africa with England during the winter, has a place, as does Surrey off-spinner Amar Virdi.
They will join Dom Bess and Jack Leach in competing with Moeen for spin-bowling spots in the final squad.
Mooen, who has 60 Test caps, lost his place in the one-day team during the successful World Cup campaign, and struggled with bat and ball in the Test against Ireland and the first match against Australia.
He continued to play limited-overs internationals but made himself unavailable for the Test side.
“He feels refreshed and he’s looking forward to rejoining the England environment,” said Smith.
“The principle was he had stepped back from Test cricket. That is no longer the case and he is available for selection.
“That is good news because he is a valued and trusted player across all formats, and he is a big part of England cricket, full stop.”
Captain Joe Root could miss the first Test because his wife is due to give birth to their second child in early July.
Root has endorsed the leadership qualities of vice-captain Ben Stokes, and Smith said England have “plans in place” if Root is unavailable.
For the West Indies series, England have asked Lancashire coach Glen Chapple to work as fast bowling coach, while Gloucestershire’s Richard Dawson will lead on spin bowling and Kent’s Matt Walker will work with current assistant Graham Thorpe on batting.
Paul Collingwood, another regular England assistant coach, will take charge of the one-day side in place of head coach Chris Silverwood later in the summer, for three matches against Ireland, the dates of which have not been confirmed. (BBC Sport)