Moeen Ali is planning to “get back on that horse” in his 50th Test.
The England all-rounder is approaching a landmark he never thought would be within his capabilities, against New Zealand in Auckland this week.
He does so, however, with much to prove after his miserable Ashes with bat and ball this winter.
England’s high hopes were dashed as remorseless Australia surged to an emphatic 4-0 victory – and Moeen’s unexpected struggles were emblematic of a hugely disappointing campaign for Joe Root’s tourists.
Moeen cannot hide from statistics which will etch out in eternity that he simply did not do himself justice in Australia.
His five wickets cost 115 runs each, and with the bat he mustered 179 at a sub-20 average – numbers which are a sad reflection of how far he fell short of his own established standards.
Moeen nonetheless believes, after improved one-day international returns against Australia and New Zealand over the past two months, that he can demonstrate the Ashes were merely a high-profile blip.
“You’ve got to get back on that horse and try your best, and almost forget about the bad days if you can,” he said.
“The Ashes were quite tough for me, and the one-dayers came at a good time.
“I feel like my confidence is slowly getting back.
“Obviously, you lose your confidence from such a bad tour as a team, not just as an individual.
“I’m sure there’s quite a lot of the guys wanting to put that right.”
Moeen will be unhampered for his recovery mission, because he is adamant there is “nothing wrong” with the spinning finger which is once again showing signs of wear and tear from the Kookaburra seam but is not preventing him bowling at his best as it did in the Ashes.
As for those 50 Test caps, did he envisage at the start of his career he would reach such an elite milestone?
“No way. I never ever thought I was going to play that many games,” said the 30-year-old.
“(Even) when I got 25, I thought 50 seemed like a long way. This week will be an amazing feeling.”
It will be even better for him and England if Ben Stokes can share the all-rounder duties.
We’ve got a much stronger side when he’s playingMoeen Ali on Ben Stokes
Stokes is back, of course, after spending the winter waiting to hear if he would be charged after being arrested following an altercation outside a Bristol nightclub last September.
After therefore missing the Ashes, he will resume his Test career in this week’s pink-ball match – but having finished the ODI series victory over the Kiwis with a stiff back, it is far from clear whether England’s resident match-winner will be able to bowl as well as bat.
Asked that very question, Moeen is optimistic.
“I hope so,” he said.
“He’s always great for the team – the balance is pretty much sorted when he’s in the team. it’s really great to have him back.
“We’ve got a much stronger side when he’s playing. It gives everyone else a good lift.
“I know he’s ready to perform and give back to the team, which I’m sure he wants to do [after] what happened earlier.”
– Stokes is expected to bowl in the Eden Park nets in training this week as he tries to prove he is fully fit for the start of the two-match series.