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'If Stokesy messages me again, I'm going to delete it' - Moeen Ali bows out of Tests on a high

Spinner overcomes groin strain to play crucial role in England's thrilling victory at The Oval

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Moeen Ali celebrates another big wicket  •  AFP/Getty Images

Moeen Ali celebrates another big wicket  •  AFP/Getty Images

Moeen Ali has confirmed that his 68th Test was also his last, after taking three final-day wickets in England's dramatic 49-run over Australia at the Kia Oval to square the 2023 Ashes series two-all.
Moeen was sent an SOS message by Ben Stokes - which read 'Ashes?' - when Jack Leach, England's first-choice spinner, was ruled out of the summer with a lower-back stress fracture in the days before the series. After initially thinking it was a joke, he decided to reverse his retirement from Test cricket, having initially quit the format in September 2021.
But he insisted that he has now retired for good, telling Sky Sports in the aftermath of England's victory: "If Stokesy messages me again, I'm going to delete it. That's me done. I really have enjoyed it, and it's great to finish on it."
"It feels amazing," Moeen added, speaking to the BBC's Test Match Special. "To come back was a little bit daunting actually, because I've never played that well against Australia. It was one of those things where, when Stokesy asked me, I thought, 'why not? I'm going to go into a brilliant side and I still believe I can do alright'."
Moeen's comeback started with him splitting his spinning finger open while bowling in England's defeat at Edgbaston, and he was left out of the second Test at Lord's as Stokes opted for an all-seam attack.
His spinning finger healed after an England supporter sent him a honey-based wound gel and he had a significant impact across the final three Tests, dismissing Marnus Labuschagne and Steven Smith at Headingley before volunteering to bat No. 3 in the second innings.
He scored 54 in that new role in Manchester, then injured his groin while batting on the first day of fifth Test at The Oval. As a result, he did not bowl a ball in Australia's first innings and shifted down to No. 7 in England's second innings - but he then took 3 for 76 in 23 overs in Australia's second innings to turn the Test in England's favour.
"I'm so glad I came back and said yes," Moeen added. "Just from the first day I came into the changing room [under] Baz and Stokesy, to play again and be part of this team with Jimmy and Broady, these guys, when I started they were there.
"It's been amazing. I'm chuffed that I can finish with a win against Australia and played a little bit of a helping hand. I've had a good run and I've really enjoyed playing Test cricket for England and representing everybody in this country."
Moeen's dismissal of Travis Head, caught at slip after edging a sharply-spun offbreak, started an Australian collapse of 4 for 11 in 19 balls after tea on the final day. "It was nice. I felt like I was a little bit short at him and then I tried one a little bit fuller, a little bit wider," he said.
"As soon as it left my hand, I knew it was a decent ball on this wicket. The period of four overs, four wickets, was amazing. It lifted everybody in the whole ground. It was so loud - an amazing atmosphere."
Moeen finished the series with 180 runs at 25.71 in his four Tests, and nine wickets at 51.44. Across his career, his batting and bowling averages were 28.12 and 37.31 respectively; during the Manchester Test, he became only the 16th man to complete the double of 3,000 Test runs and 200 wickets.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98