Bristol hosts Sunday’s dead-rubber third one-day international between England and Sri Lanka. As well as being steeped in history, dating back to the days of WG Grace, it is a ground where Eoin Morgan’s players have cleared the ropes 31 times in their past two visits for 50-over cricket.
Moeen Ali has been responsible for 11 of those blows but finds himself in a curious place. As the T20 side plan for the World Cup in the United Arab Emirates that is due to start in October, his ability to bowl spin and launch it over the rope should be central. Yet he has become peripheral of late. In the one-day team he is struggling to catch his captain’s eye in the field.
The 34-year-old appears to be valued more highly in the Indian Premier League, where for the princely sum of £690,000 he bats at No 3 for Chennai Super Kings and was instrumental in their rise to second place before the tournament was suspended in early May. MS Dhoni, a captain with three IPL titles and a World T20 title to his name, is in no doubt about Moeen’s qualities.
England, however, have picked him for one of their past 11 T20s, including a full five-match snub in India this year that made his allocated rest period during the Tests even more bizarre. When he does play, it is down the order, a very different role to that Moeen occupies for Worcestershire and CSK, while in his past eight caps in the shortest format he has sent down seven overs. He has played in the first two games of the series, but on Thursday neither batted nor bowled.
All told it is hard not to conclude that Morgan has lost faith with him and in T20 it appears Liam Livingstone and Sam Billings, two bench-warmers for their IPL teams, sit ahead in the pecking order.
Moeen is not the type to kick up a fuss but, speaking on the eve of match at a ground where previous outings have produced incendiary scores of 102 from 57 balls and a 46 not out from 36, he admitted to some growing frustration.
“It’s not my way,” he said when asked if it is worth speaking to Morgan about where he stands.
“Whenever Morgs tells me I’m not playing, I never question it. I always feel he’s doing what’s best for the team. All I can say is I’m playing well and when I get my chance I want to take it.”
Asked if the IPL success has at least helped his confidence, Moeen said: “It’s just good to be batting up the order. MS Dhoni backed me to go up the order and play how I play for Worcestershire. It’s nice to get that confidence from the captain.
“I get it here as well, but we have so many world-class players it’s difficult to get up the order. In the past I would let it affect me and then it affects my game mentally. But I’ve come to realise it’s not me, it’s sometimes just the way it is, and not to blame myself for not getting the chances.”
Morgan has hinted at changes after taking an unassailable 2-0 lead on Thursday. With an unchanged squad named for the three-match series against Pakistan that starts in Cardiff on Thursday now appears the optimal time to experiment, even if every ODI counts towards World Cup qualification.
As such, it could be that Sussex’s George Garton makes his debut and that chances are also handed to Livingstone and Liam Dawson. Garton, 24, was predominantly selected to gain experience around the squad, but with Sri Lanka struggling against left-arm seam during this series – Sam Curran and David Willey shared nine wickets at the Oval – his case has become stronger.