Moeen Ali to miss SL Test series due to isolation
2021-01-13 at 10:40
Moeen Ali is set to miss all of England’s two-Test series in Sri Lanka and faces an uphill struggle to be ready for the tour of India that follows after his hotel-room quarantine in Galle was extended further.
Moeen, 33, tested positive for Covid-19 when the England squad arrived in Hambantota on 3 January and, having recovered from some mild symptoms from the virus since, was due to emerge from his mandated 10-day isolation on Wednesday.
But England’s Covid-19 compliance officer on tour, Phil Davies, has now accepted a request from the Sri Lankan government to add “two or three” days to this confinement in a move likely driven by concerns over the more aggressive new strain of Covid-19 that was first detected in the UK.
The all-rounder, who has been staying in a separate hotel, was already ruled out of the first Test starting on Thursday, with Dom Bess and Jack Leach the two frontline spinners in the expected XI and supported by part-timers in Joe Root and the debutant Dan Lawrence.
But with the second Test starting at the same ground on 22 January, the expectation now is Moeen will not enter the selection mix until the squad moves on to India for the four-Test series that gets under way in Chennai on 4 February.
The situation is complicated further, however, by the lack of warmup games and England facing a possible six- or seven-day quarantine in their rooms when they arrive, limiting his chances of getting up to speed before that series against Virat Kohli’s side.
Moeen was England’s leading wicket-taker when England won 3-0 in Sri Lanka in 2018 and this latest setback delays his possible Test return following an 18-month absence that, as a multi-format cricketer, was caused chiefly by burnout.
“Everyone’s checking in with him, making sure he’s OK. But I can only imagine what he’s going through,” said Chris Woakes, who was forced to isolate for seven days himself after sharing a taxi with Moeen from the West Midlands to Heathrow.
“I know the guys have played a lot of PlayStation with him as well and talking to him through headsets. So we’ve been trying to keep him busy as much as we can.
“These are unprecedented times. We’re trying to get around him and I’ve heard the docs are checking in with him a good few times a day and we also have a psychologist here who is touching base with the players.”