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'It's great to have him back': England eye Moeen Ali return after Covid-19

Moeen Ali will finally begin readying himself for a potential return to Test cricket after being cleared of Covid-19 and emerging from his spell of isolation. The 33-year-old tested positive for the virus upon arrival in Sri Lanka but after 13 days away from the rest of squad with mild symptoms – and two negative PCR results in the past 24 hours – he was seen back in the England dressing room on day three in Galle.

“It’s great to have Mo back,” said Sam Curran after stumps. “When we walked into the changing room [at tea] we saw Mo and there were smiles on everyone’s faces.

“He’s obviously had a really tough couple of weeks and no one wants to get into the situation he was in. Thankfully he got through that OK. We’re all really excited to have him back in the group to play cricket again, because we all know what an awesome player he is, and to be around.

“The guys are really happy. Hopefully it doesn’t happen to anyone else, because no one wants to have players leaving the group and isolating for a couple of weeks.”

The two-week break from training has seen England play down Moeen’s chances of an immediate return for the second Test in Galle that begins next Friday. He will have to do plenty of work in the nets with England’s spin coach, Jeetan Patel, before the squad departs for India on 27 January.

That tour is expected to start with a seven-day quarantine period in hotel rooms. Given there is no warm-up game scheduled before the first Test in Chennai, Moeen and other unused squad members face going into the four-matches series undercooked.

Asked about England’s lack of preparation before this current series – a two-day intra-squad match that saw the second day ruined by rain – Curran replied: “Look at our spinners and some of the seamers as well – no one’s really played much cricket.

“You’d expect a bit of rustiness. The buildup was what it was. We had no complaints – [Joe] Rooty was very clear that we needed to hit the ground running which we luckily did on day one.”

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