Moin Ali hasn't played red ball cricket for almost two years and turned down the opportunity to play test cricket six months ago. Photo: Getty Images/Clive Rose
Only Ashes could make a selection decision as panicking as England to recall Moin Ali from retirement.
No other show would have done this. Ash changes everything. They make you tear up the rule book. Players, captains and supporters will do everything they can to get the best team in the park.
This includes the retirement of a guy who had a bad record against Australia, who hasn't played red ball cricket for almost two years and withdrew from England just over six months ago. England and Ben Stokes know this is the series that will define this team so called Moin who knows all about the higher status and rewards that come with winning the Ashes so he said yes to this and not the Pakistan tour. in December.
It's an extraordinary choice and a strange situation, but if I were Stokes, I would do the same. His rank as captain was a revelation, right or wrong, he should bear the name Ash under his name.
England spent a year building a team under Stokes and at the last moment lost a really important player. I said over the weekend that I think Jack Leach is the most important player in England. I haven't seen Leach have a 25 or 30 wicket streak. It was about getting 15 to 18, being the link and letting Stokes spin. If five of those gates were big, Lich would have done his job.
England can't ask Moen to do the same job because it's not in his DNA to do 25 overs, two out of 50. But you could argue that if used properly, he will actually provide an improvement for this team, that they are better with Moen than Lich. He lengthens the batting at number 8 (England will no longer have a very long tail) and the plan is for him to go up against tired bowlers flayed by top sevens. Australia won't be too drawn to him, but Moin will handle them and be fearless. You'd think he'd love the English culture to bring the fun back into the game and remember why you did it.
Ben Stokes knows what Moin is capable of and trusts him to take the place of Jack Leach. Photo: PA/Paul Roberts
His bowling alley? Well, it won't be consistent. But he has the ability to throw really great pitches and if he can find 12 of them in a series to take wickets, England will be happy. Australia has a bunch of lefties to play with, down to Mitchell Stark and Josh Hazlewood in the tail. It will be all about key wickets at key moments, probably with aggressive pitches that were given to Lich. For a while I thought England was a bit like the T20 setting. Moen will be used at certain times, perhaps even as a bowler.
At his best, Moen is the perfect cricketer for this team. What worries me the most is his physique. Will he be able to endure those long days in the field? Or bowling 25 overs a day? He has been trained to be there for hours at a time, making multiple overs in a short amount of time, for nearly two years now. Will it be able to keep showing the last session of the day or towards the end of the match when it might be most important?
I totally understand those who say this is wrong and ask what this means for Liam Dawson or Will Jax and Rehan Ahmed, youngsters who made good debuts in Pakistan. They can all chat with Stokes, telling him that they think it's unfair. But the problem with the current England team is not that there is no outstanding candidate to replace Leach. Their job is to pick the best team to beat Australia. Ashes is about being ruthless, on and off the field, and they did it.
Another problem is that it will leave England if it doesn't work. You tend to only dump players when you lose, so if they're forced to do so, they'll fall behind in the series and attract guys who know they're not needed in the first place. Unless, of course, they can convince India to offer them Ravichandran Ashwin in a cheeky loan after he drinks in the World Testing Championship final.