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Moeen Ali's absence a 'massive miss' for Birmingham Phoenix - Liam Livingstone

The allrounder was added to the England squad ahead of the Lord's Test against India

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
11-Aug-2021
Liam Livingstone has admitted it is "obviously disappointing" for players to be pulled out of the Hundred for international duty but has backed Birmingham Phoenix to cope with the absence of their captain Moeen Ali for the final two group games.
Moeen, Phoenix's leading run-scorer, captain and poster boy, was added to England's squad ahead of Thursday's second Test at Lord's after their 93-run win against Welsh Fire at Edgbaston on Monday, which sent them top of the men's points table. Saqib Mahmood, the Oval Invincibles seamer, was also added to the Test squad at short notice on Wednesday following Stuart Broad's injury, and both players will miss the final two group games with their availability for the knockout stages unconfirmed.
Players named in England's Test squad for the first Test were only made available for their respective teams' first two games of the tournament, with Welsh Fire (who missed their captain Jonny Bairstow) and London Spirit (who were without Mark Wood, Zak Crawley and Dan Lawrence) particularly hit.
Livingstone, who will stand in as captain in Moeen's absence, said that he would be a "massive miss" and that it was "disappointing" for star names to be pulled out of the Hundred at short notice, but conceded that they had been "very lucky" to have him for as long as they did after he missed out on the squad for the first Test.
"Any time you miss someone like Mo it'll be a massive miss," Livingstone said. "He's obviously a big part of our attack and a massive part of our batting line-up, but his calmness around the dressing room is something that you can't replace. He's given us freedom, as a squad, to go out and enjoy our cricket, and we've not taken things too seriously - we've gone out and enjoyed ourselves and it's gone really well. He leaves us in a good position for these last two games and hopefully we can get him back later in the tournament.
"If you look at us as a team, Mo is a massive part of us, and I see Mo as a massive part of the entertainment of our franchise. Certainly as a spectator, you want to be seeing the likes of Saqib and Mo doing their thing. That's what you come to cricket grounds wanting to watch, that sort of players going to work. It's obviously disappointing but if anyone deserves a call-up to the Test squad at the moment it's probably Mo. They're missing that type of player, someone who can bat and bowl, so Mo thoroughly deserves his chances of going back and playing Test cricket.
"Let's hope he gets a go on Thursday and does what we all know he can do. He's a great man to have in your side and we've been very lucky to have him for six games - he could have been in there from the start and we'd have had him for two. We've been lucky to have him as long as we have."
Moeen is likely to be replaced in the side by a specialist batter, with Daniel Bell-Drummond and Chris Cooke both in contention to return, but Livingstone was unable to confirm whether Tom Abell - an £80,000 signing in February's re-draft - would be fit to play after spending the last two months sidelined by a hamstring injury he picked up playing for Somerset.
Livingstone's captaincy experience is limited to a season as Lancashire's club captain in 2018, when he stepped down after their relegation from Division One of the County Championship, but he said that he saw the two roles differently.
"I think it's going to be very different," he said. "This is just making a couple of decisions on the pitch and we've got a lot of experienced cricketers anyway. I think as a county club captain, there is a lot more responsibility than what I'll have in the next couple of games. We've got a great opportunity to push our way into the finals.
"You play these tournaments to get into finals. We've set ourselves up and have a great opportunity, even more so the lads that are coming in now. It's a great learning experience and the boys are really excited for the two games to come."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98