Ashes 2017-18: Moeen Ali ready to snap back for England

England's Moeen Ali: Fully fit again.
England's Moeen Ali: Fully fit again.
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MOEEN ALI has seen off the first dangerous predator of his maiden Ashes tour, and is out to help tame the hosts’ much-hyped bowling attack, too.

While Moeen was keeping the crocodiles safely at arm’s length at the Billabong Sanctuary Native Wildlife Park in Townsville, a two-hour flight away south in Brisbane Mitchell Starc was already talking a fierce game on behalf of Australia’s pace bowlers.

Moeen, fit to play in this week’s warm-up match against a Cricket Australia XI after sitting out the first two tour fixtures with a “slight side strain”, did not flinch when Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill announced the names of the roosters he and Alastair Cook would be feeding to crocodiles Caesar and Bully.

It transpired Caesar was not in the mood to gulp down either ‘Moeen’ or ‘Alastair’ but Bully had a fair appetite as the two tourists dangled the food from the safety of a balcony over the salt-water lagoon.

For Moeen, it was a first public appearance of the tour, and he made clear he has spent enough time on the sidelines and is out to make his presence felt in the first Test in Brisbane next week.

“I can’t wait, getting a bit of game time in my system (here) and then ready to play at the Gabba,” said the key all-rounder, whose job has become all the more important in the absence of Ben Stokes.

Australia's Mitchell Starc. Picture: Nigel French/PA.

Australia's Mitchell Starc. Picture: Nigel French/PA.

“I’m very excited, looking forward to the atmosphere. It doesn’t faze me. I’m just going to come out and play like I always do for England, and give it my best shot.”

Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Jackson Bird were simultaneously honing their skills in a training camp at Brisbane’s Allan Border Field – and the left-arm spearhead spelled out just how well he thinks they are coming along

Starc, who warmed up for the Ashes with a hat-trick in each innings of New South Wales’ Sheffield Shield victory over Western Australia last week, began by voicing his admiration of Hazlewood.

“He’s a genius with line and length, and it allows Pat and me to really unleash and bowl as quick as we want and attack,” said Starc.

I’m very excited, looking forward to the atmosphere. It doesn’t faze me. I’m just going to come out and play like I always do for England, and give it my best shot.

Moeen Ali

“He takes wickets in his own way... and then Pat and I try to blast teams out and attack the stumps, and really intimidate.

“We complement each other really well.”

It sounds a daunting task for England, who can be sure at least they have Moeen fully fit again with bat and ball.

Asked about his side injury, he said: “I’ve had it before but I’ll be all right. It don’t think I have to be too careful about it.

“I probably could have played that last game (also against the CA XI in Adelaide), but just stayed on the safe side. I wasn’t worried.”

He is satisfied that England have shown improvement in their two tour matches – albeit against teams comprising players who were not required for ongoing Sheffield Shield fixtures.

“The opposition has been quite good,” said Moeen. “We were in trouble a couple of times, so it was a bit of a reality check for us to get back into our game and make sure we’re ruthless when we do get the chance and not give it away.”

England call-up George Garton has signed a two-year contract extension at Sussex that will keep him with them until at least the end of the 2020 season.

Garton has played just nine first-class matches but was drafted into England’s Ashes squad for their final warm-up as cover for the injured Jake Ball.

The 20-year-old left-arm paceman will link up with England Lions for a training camp in Australia after his stint with the first string.