Moeen Ali's brutal wake-up call in Test return results in ICC fine

England's shock call to bring back Moeen Ali backfired on the veteran spinner on day three of the first Test.

Moeen Ali inspects his finger on the left, and speaks with the field umpire on the right.
Moeen Ali had to resort to using a drying spray on his blistering spinning finger, attracting a fine from the ICC as a result. Pictures: Getty Images

Moeen Ali's comeback to the Test arena has been more difficult than England may have anticipated, with the 36-year-old's hands and finger suffering the effects of a heavy bowling burden after three days of the first Test. Unwilling to look towards a Test debutant for the Ashes series, England brought the veteran spinner out of red-ball retirement in a move that surprised the cricket world - but it risks blowing up in their faces in Australia's second innings.

Ali will have at least day four to recover from blisters developing on his fingers, having exclusively played T20 cricket since retiring from the Test arena in 2021. The pain inadvertently lead to Ali being fined 25% of his match fee by the ICC.

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With the developing blisters seriously troubling him during Australia's first innings, Ali dispensed with towels, instead opting for an anti-drying spray. But umpires had prohibited players from using any substance without prior approval, even though the ICC accepted he had not been trying to alter the condition of the ball.

His struggles have hammered home the massive loss of the injured Jack Leach, with Ali interspersing some his his typically excellent deliveries with some absolute pies that the likes of Travis Head, Usman Khawaja and even Pat Cummins were able to feast on. As a result, Australia were able to reduce their first innings deficit to just eight runs, before claiming two key wickets late on a rain-affected day three.

His finger problem after such a long break from Test cricket could be a major concern for England, as there is no obvious back-up, certainly not one with anywhere near his experience. Little wonder the England camp were trying to allay fears about his readiness for the long Ashes haul.

"As far as I'm aware it's fine," reported his teammate Ollie Robinson. "Haven't actually seen it myself, but I think it's fine."

Assistant coach Paul Collingwood had also noted on Saturday evening: "Part and parcel of a spinner's job is they've got to grip the seam and give it a rip.

"All spinners have blisters and calluses on their spinning fingers. He's no different to anybody else."

First Test delicately poised after rain-affected third day

England slumped to 2-28 in their second innings when play ended early on Sunday, with the hosts leading by only 35, after losing 2-2 in a 22-ball period between two rain delays. After Australia were all out for 386 in reply to England's 8(dec)-393 before lunch, England were cruising in their second innings at 0-26 when bad weather interrupted.

Players then emerged with dark clouds overhead and the floodlights on, prompting Australia to set attacking fields for the first time in the Test. Cam Green first took a brilliant low diving catch to rid of Ben Duckett for 19 off Pat Cummins, before Scott Boland had Zak Crawley caught behind on 7.

Crawley glared back at the umpires as he walked off the field, seemingly unhappy play was continuing in the poor light.

Moeen Ali is back taking Test wickets for England, but questions remain as to whether his fingers can hold up through the series. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Moeen Ali is back taking Test wickets for England, but questions remain as to whether his fingers can hold up through the series. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Joe Root then survived multiple lbw and caught behind appeals before more rain returned to wash away the rest of the day.

"It was exciting, the lights come on and the ball was moving around a little more," Australia's wicketkeeper Alex Carey said.

"Taking two early wickets we saw an opportunity to bring the field in and squeeze pressure.

"We were only out there for 10 overs, but it felt like we were back to hitting good line and lengths and getting a little bit out of the wicket and the field could come up."

With AAP

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