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England in Sri Lanka: Moeen Ali confirmed to miss first Test after positive Covid-19 result

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England all-rounder Moeen Ali during the 2019 Ashes against Australia
Moeen Ali’s last Test appearance was the first Ashes Test against Australia in 2019

England all-rounder Moeen Ali will not be available for the first Test against Sri Lanka, head coach Chris Silverwood has confirmed.

Chris Woakes is out of isolation after being deemed a possible close contact but Silverwood said it will be “tight” for him to be ready for the first Test.

The two-Test series starts in Galle on Thursday.

“Moeen won’t be available because he’s still in isolation but he’s in good spirits,” said Silverwood.

“He’s feeling OK physically and the lads are constantly messaging him and checking in on him, as are the medical team.

“We’re all looking forward to getting back in camp.”

The rest of England’s touring party passed coronavirus tests after Moeen’s positive result but fellow all-rounder Woakes had to isolate, having shared a car to the airport with Moeen in the UK.

Woakes joined up with the squad on Saturday after his self-isolation period ended, before his first training session on Monday.

“He’ll only have three days build-up to the first Test so that’s going to be tight but I’ll know more after the training session,” said Silverwood.

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Moeen’s absence leaves off-spinner Dom Bess and slow left-armer Jack Leach as England’s first-choice spinners.

But Silverwood said they do also have the option of calling up off-spinner Amar Virdi and leg-spinners Mason Crane and Matthew Parkinson from the reserves if they feel the pitch merits playing a third frontline spinner.

All three are already with the squad in Sri Lanka, with England having named an extended touring party as cover for possible Covid-19 infections or injuries.

“They are in the group so they are available if we see the pitch and want to pick them,” said Silverwood.

“We travel with such a large group now so any eventuality that comes up, we’ve got it covered.”

Essex batsman Dan Lawrence, who scored an unbeaten 46 in the intra-squad warm-up match, could make his debut in the first Test.

Silverwood, who used to coach Lawrence at Essex, said the 23-year-old is “ready” for Test cricket if he gets selected.

“He’s a great character, a fighter and his skills are there as well,” he added.

“He doesn’t get flustered, he doesn’t worry about who the opposition are, he does his job in his way and just loves scoring runs.

“Should he get the nod, I have every confidence he’ll be successful.”

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