Harry Brook’s World Cup hopes continue to loom large as England prepare for their T20 decider against New Zealand, with vice-captain Moeen Ali admitting a selection U-turn remains possible.
Brook was left out of a preliminary 15-man squad for next month’s 50-over title defence after Ben Stokes returned from one-day retirement to take up a place in the middle order.
That was a surprising move given the 24-year-old’s burgeoning reputation and Brook reacted in the perfect manner, crashing a stunning century in his final innings of The Hundred before adding rapid-fire knocks of 43 not out and 67 in victories over the Black Caps.
Skipper Jos Buttler appeared to leave the door ajar for the Yorkshireman by saying there was a “long time” before the official September 28 deadline and noted that Brook was not in the squad “at the moment”.
Speaking ahead of the summer’s final T20 at Trent Bridge, with England 2-1 ahead despite a 74-run defeat on Sunday, Moeen acknowledged the issue was far from settled.
“He’s been unlucky to miss out but the way he’s playing he could come back in, you never know,” said the all-rounder.
“Harry Brook is going to be a great player and he’s playing great at the minute. It’s a great headache to have as a side and I’m sure the captain and the coaches are thinking the same thing.
“It’s so difficult for the captain and the coaches, so I’m glad it’s not my call.”
Dawid Malan is the player who may find his spot under threat should Brook make another statement in Nottingham. He revealed he was relieved to see his name in the provisional announcement given the tight squeeze for batting places has scored just two runs from 15 deliveries in his last two innings to invite further pressure.
But Moeen has made it clear that his track record in limited-overs cricket, where he has been a reliable scorer for several years, will not easily be overlooked.
“One thing with Malan is, he’s never let the team down,” said Moeen.
“You’re guaranteed runs from him, he hardly ever fails. He’s been on all the tours and done really well, he’s always scored runs. He’s a top player in his own right, he’s never let England down. These last two innings, he’s obviously human and people do miss out, but he will score a lot of runs for England to come.”
Both Moeen and Malan are 36, the latter’s birthday celebrations stymied by Sunday’s heavy defeat, and form part of a seasoned side that looks ripe for renewal in 2024.
Opener Jason Roy has already suggested as much and Moeen is not shrinking from the fact that he could be approaching the end of his ODI career.
“A lot can happen still but I think not just for England, for most countries, there are a lot of players in their mid-thirties who might just think about retiring after the World Cup,” he said.
Sep 5: 4th T20 @ Trent Bridge
Sep 8: 1st ODI @ Cardiff
Sep 10: 2nd ODI @ Ageas Bowl
Sep 13: 3rd ODI @ The Oval
Sep 15: 4th ODI @ Lord's
“I’ve not really fully thought about it but it potentially could be, yeah.”
In the immediate term, England will be eager to deny New Zealand a share of the spoils in the T20 finale and, while a clean sweep would have been good for confidence, Moeen sees the benefit of tuning up with a decider.
“I think it’s difficult to compare 50 overs to T20s, but it’s good being under pressure as a side,” he said.
“I think we’ll learn more in the 50-over series but still you can learn, the T20 World Cup’s not too far away and on these kind of wickets we need to adapt better. New Zealand are a top side, they have been for many years. They’re very dangerous with a lot of very good players.”