England wait on Moeen bowling fitness
Concerns over Moeen Ali's fitness continue to cloud England's preparations ahead of the day-night Test in Adelaide.
While the England captain, Joe Root, confirmed that Moeen would play whether he was able to bowl or not, concerns over his spinning finger - cut in Brisbane and now blistered - have raised questions over how much he will be able to bowl and how effective he may be.
Moeen cut his finger within his first few overs in Brisbane. Having bowled little in the warm-up games due to a side strain, his fingers had not sufficiently hardened before the Test and, brought into the attack with a ball just eight overs old, he found the Kookaburra seam quickly left him with a cut. While he played down the extent of the problem after the game, he was comprehensively out-bowled by the Australia spinner, Nathan Lyon.
Moeen only delivered four overs in the second innings in Brisbane and has not bowled in training since. But he will have a long bowl in training on Friday, with the England management and medical team seeing how his finger reacts before making a decision over team selection. While Moeen is confident he will be able to bowl, there has to be some doubt as to how many revolutions he will be able to put on the ball and, as a result, how effectively he can perform.
England have not sent for a backup spinner - the likes of Jack Leach - from the Lions squad, which suggests they are confident in Moeen's recovery.
"At the end of practice we'll have a clear indication if he'll be fit to bowl throughout the game," Root said. "If there's any more damage to it then we'll have to make a decision.
"His batting has been a huge part of this team for a long time now, so I think he would still play as a batter."
Whatever happens, it remains likely that England will stick to a team containing four seamers, with Moeen and Joe Root sharing the spin bowling duties. The conditions in Adelaide - it is a day-night match and the weather is currently overcast - are expected to provide a little more assistance for seamers.
But Root has not ruled out a debut for 20-year-old legspinner Mason Crane, who impressed the England management with his temperament in the warm-up games.
"It's definitely not out of the question," Root said. "It's important we take everything into consideration at the end of practice. We'll look at Moeen, see how bad his finger is and look at the conditions."
There is also theory that the seam of the pink ball is harder to pick-up under lights, which renders legspinners, in particular, harder to read. In the previous two day-night Tests at Adelaide the visiting teams have given debuts to spin bowlers - New Zealand picked left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner here for the first time in 2015 and South Africa picked left-arm wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi last year - and England could follow suit.
It was a point made previously by Steve O'Keefe, Australia's left-arm spinner. "The hardest thing for batsmen is to pick up the seam on the pink ball," he said in 2015. "When spinners bowl, it can be difficult at times to see the seam or the revolutions through the air, which certainly helps. All the spinners who have bowled with the pink ball in Adelaide have generally had success."
Kookuburra have adapted the ball to aid visibility. While the version used in the first day-night game had four green and two white seams, the one used here will have six black seams which has increased the contrast against the pink surface and should improve visibility.
If Crane did play, it would probably be in place of Jake Ball as England cannot afford to lengthen their tail any further. Stuart Broad and Ball both look a place too high at No. 9 and No. 10. Not for the first time, the absence of Ben Stokes - who could bat in the top six and provide the fourth seam-bowling option - is causing Root a headache.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo