Moeen Ali has called time on his Test career once more.
Retiring from Test cricket in September 2021 and having not played first-class cricket since a Test reunion was never at the forefront of his mind.
But when fellow spin bowler Jack Leach was ruled out with a lower back stress fracture things suddenly changed.
It started with a one-word text message from Ben Stokes: “Ashes?” And finished with 68 Tests, 3,094 runs (five centuries) and 204 wickets.
Mo, who thought the message wasn’t serious having not heard the news on Leach, replied ‘LOL’. But Stokes was serious, as was the whole England set-up, and Mo returned to the format that gave him his debut at Lord’s in 2014.
It wasn’t a smooth ride, a blister during the opening Test ruled him out of the second and a groin strain caused concern in the last. But in true Mo fashion, he responded to not only answer the questions from outside the team room, but the one’s in it to
The 36-year-old became England’s SOS, a front-line spinner, moved up the order to three – a role he’s previously held – and an impact performer.
Part of the winning side at Headingley, Mo received individual accolades at Emirates Old Trafford, becoming just the 16th player and fourth Englishman to pass 3,000 runs and 200 wickets.
Removing Steve Smith to reach the landmark, the local Brummie joined an exclusive list that features Sir Garry Sobers, Imran Khan, Sir Richard Hadlee, Sir Ian Botham, Shane Warne and Stuart Broad.
With rain thwarting England’s hopes of a 3-2 series win, all eyes were on the fifth and final Test at The Oval.
Mo struck an entertaining 34, sandwiched around the groin injury, and couldn’t bowl in the second innings. He would bat again in the third (29), but it was on that final day he would enjoy a memorable swan song.
As Stuart Broad announced his retirement ahead of a thrilling final day, Mo remained quiet. Taking 3/76 in 23 overs in Australia’s second innings, he spoke loudly as he turned the Test in England’s favour alongside his Bears teammate Chris Woakes.
England’s win was incredible, as was Mo walking side-by-side with Broad to a standing ovation. That was enough to confirm his happy ending, but his final words put the nail in the coffin.
If Stokesy messages me again, I’m going to delete it. That’s me done. I really have enjoyed it, and it’s great to finish on it,” said Mo.
Speaking to the BBC’s Test Match Special, he added: “It feels amazing. To come back was a little bit daunting actually, because I’ve never played that well against Australia. It was one of those things where, when Stokesy asked me, I thought, ‘Why not? I’m going to go into a brilliant side and I still believe I can do alright’.
“I’m so glad I came back and said yes,” Moeen added. “Just from the first day, I came into the changing room [under] Baz and Stokesy, to play again and be part of this team with Jimmy and Broady, these guys, when I started they were there.
“It’s been amazing and I’m chuffed that I can finish with a win against Australia and played a little bit of a helping hand. I’ve had a good run and I’ve really enjoyed playing Test cricket for England and representing everybody in this country.”
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