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Moeen Ali has revealed that fellow England all-rounder Ben Stokes is raring to make his Test comeback and make his presence felt in the two-Test series against New Zealand.
Stokes has not played Test cricket since September last year as he missed the Ashes after allegedly being involved in a street fight outside the Mbargo nightclub in Bristol.
Stokes has since been charged with affray, but has pleaded not guilty. His trial will be held on August 9.
However, following a successful limited overs comeback in the recent ODI series against New Zealand, Stokes is ready to don the Test whites again.
“Just having him in the side, knowing we’re much stronger when he’s playing, it gives everyone a lift,” Moeen was quoted as saying by the Daily Express. “He’s great to have in the team and I know he’s ready to go and ready to perform and give back to the team, which I’m sure he wants to do for what happened earlier.”
Moeen also admitted that having Stokes back in the side will benefit him in numerous in ways.
“Obviously him being at slip for me, he’s very good in that position,” Moeen said. “And he’s great to have just to talk to about bowling. When I’m bowling he gives me quite a lot of advice and whatever I need.”
Stokes did not feature in the first warm-up match against a New Zealand XI due to a back injury, but while he did play in the second game against the same opposition, he only batted.
When asked if Stokes will be fit enough to bowl in the Test series against the Black Caps, Moeen said: “I hope so. Is he going to toughen up a little bit? I hope he’s bowling. He’s always great for the team – the balance of the team is pretty much sorted when he’s in it. It’s really great to have him back.”
Meanwhile, Moeen believes that the series will be tightly contested as New Zealand have an excellent side.
“I think it’s going to be quite a tight series,” he said. “They have a very good side and some world-class players who are in good form and some very good bowlers as well.”
England have only triumphed once in a Test series away from home in the last five years, which came in South Africa in 2015/16. While their record abroad doesn’t make for good reading, Moeen added that his side’s confidence has also been dented due to their 4-0 thrashing in the Ashes.
“You lose your confidence from such a bad tour as a team,” he said. “I’m sure there’s quite a lot of the guys want to put that right. You’ve almost got to forget about the bad days if you can.”
The first Test against New Zealand, which will be a day-night affair in Auckland and get underway on March 22, will be a special one for Moeen as it will be his 50th Test match for England. Opening up about the milestone, Moeen said: “I never ever thought I was going to play that many games. Hopefully this week will be an amazing feeling for myself.”