Last Updated: 20/11/18 6:48pm
Former England spinner Graeme Swann believes Moeen Ali is worth his place in the Test side purely as a bowler – and should bat as low as nine if necessary.
Ali is England’s leading wicket-taker so far in the series against Sri Lanka, with 14 to his name, but was shunted up the batting order to number three in the first Test, without success.
Swann, who played in 60 Tests between 2008 and 2013, urged England to abandon that experiment for good and says Ali has proved himself as the best slow bowler available to the Test selectors.
“The nonsensical idea of batting him at three just so they can play another spinner, that has to go,” Swann – speaking at the launch of the ECB All Stars programme to help train South Asian female cricket coaches – told Sky Sports.
“In this England team, as Joe Root gets more of a grip on his captaincy, that can’t happen any more. Moeen is the best spin bowler we’ve got in the country.
“He should play as a spin bowler and if it means batting him at nine, six or seven but being the only spinner, then that’s the way we should play.
“He had a difficult tour of Australia but before that tour he was bowling very well for England. We quickly take our eye off the ball in England – we quickly cast people aside.”
Sri Lanka vs England
November 23, 2018, 4:00am
Ali has been part of a trio of England spinners for the first two Tests of the series, alongside left-armer Jack Leach – who has taken a total of 13 wickets – and leg-spinner Adil Rashid.
Unless injuries force them into a change, the selectors are likely to retain the same side for the third Test in Colombo, which begins on Friday, live on Sky Sports.
That would mean no place for Jonny Bairstow, who was injured in the build-up to the first Test and has been unable to regain the wicketkeeper’s gloves due to the impressive performances of replacement Ben Foakes.
Swann added: “Foakes has come in and done unbelievably well. He’s a brilliant cricketer and everyone’s known for a long time he would come in and take this opportunity.
“Jonny Bairstow plays as a batsman, full stop. If there are five better players than Jonny Bairstow in this country, I’ll eat my own hand!
“If Jonny wants to keep in the Test team, I think he’s got his work cut out, but he’s a wonderful fielder.”