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Moeen Ali's likely final Test overshadowed by groin strain

England's bowling stocks struck by injury as allrounder spends second morning in dressing room

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
27-Jul-2023 • Updated on 28-Jul-2023
Moeen Ali was hampered by a groin problem, England vs Australia, 5th men's Ashes Test, The Oval, 1st day, July 27, 2023

Moeen Ali was hampered by a groin problem  •  Getty Images

England are sweating on the fitness of Moeen Ali, who injured his right groin while batting for England on the first day of the fifth Ashes Test at the Kia Oval, and was not expected to field at all during Australia's first innings.
Moeen, who is playing what is likely to be his last Test, pulled up sore after taking a single while batting with Harry Brook shortly after lunch on the first day. He received treatment from England physio Steve Griffin, and took painkillers before resuming his innings on 11 off 37 balls.
Clearly struggling to move freely, Moeen opted to tee off and flogged 23 runs off his next nine balls, including two sixes over midwicket off Pat Cummins, a ramped upper-cut for four off the same bowler and a pull off Todd Murphy. But he fell for a 47-ball 34 when he was bowled by Murphy, and his dismissal prompted an England collapse from 184 for 3 to 283 all out.
He did not take the field when England came out to bowl in the evening session, and a team spokesperson said on the second morning: "Moeen Ali will not field today following his right groin injury sustained batting on day one of this Test. He will continue to be assessed by the England medical team." It was later confirmed that he will only be able to bat after 120 minutes have elapsed in England's second innings or after the fall of the fifth wicket, whichever comes sooner.
"I don't think he's too good at the minute," Harry Brook told BBC Test Match Special at the close on the first day. "He's been a vital player for us and maybe hasn't done as well as he would have wanted to. He's been a very vital player for us in this series, a top player. Hopefully he's alright and gets well soon."
Brook - whose fourth-wicket stand with Moeen was eventually worth 111 - said that his team-mate's response to the setback had been "perfect", saying that he had taken his own decision to raise the tempo: "As soon as the physio left the pitch he said, 'shall I just tee off now?" I actually said to him: 'You should have been doing that from the start.'
"He is one of the best power-hitters in the world and we've seen that in white-ball cricket, in franchise cricket, so there's probably not any better men out there if you want him to go smack it really. It's a shame he didn't last a bit longer but the way he went about it after getting injured was perfect I thought."
Understandably, the pair dealt largely in boundaries in the latter stage of their stand. "I think we still could have easily got ones, because they decide to put the field back as soon as we played a few big shots," Brook added. "I didn't think that was a problem, but obviously he was in a bit of pain so there weren't going to be many twos out there."
Moeen reversed his retirement to play in this Ashes series after Jack Leach was diagnosed with a lower-back stress fracture, and his 68th Test cap is expected to be his last.
Asked about the prospect of touring India in January-March 2024 this week, he told the Daily Mail: "No chance I'll do India. I can't see it happening." And while he conceded that "things can change whenever", he is unlikely to feature again after this match.
England do have another spin option in their ranks in the form of Joe Root's offspin. Captain Ben Stokes practised his own offbreaks in the nets on Wednesday but is highly unlikely to bowl a ball this week.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98