Moeen Ali believes World Cup glory this summer would ensure Eoin Morgan’s team go down as England’s best one-day side.
With the Test series in the West Indies wrapped up, all eyes are on limited-overs cricket for the next few months, starting with five ODIs in the Caribbean.
England go into the series top of the global rankings after revolutionising their approach to 50-over cricket over the past four years, and make no secret of the fact they fancy their chances of lifting the World Cup on home soil on July 14.
Three England teams have finished runner-up in the tournament – the classes of 1979, 1987 and 1992 – and Moeen wants to go one better to seal the current’s squad’s legacy.
“We can say we were the best ODI side to play for England…but without a trophy, it will be difficult to say that,” said the all-rounder.
“We have come close and we feel now is the time. We don’t feel we have to win it, it’s more ‘this is the time to win it’. We are an amazing side, but we know this year is massive for us.”
Moeen is one of eight Test players staying on for the one-day series – with a ninth, Adil Rashid, rejoining the tour after returning home to attend the birth of his second child.
Those involved know not to underestimate the West Indies, who dealt out thrashings in Barbados and Antigua to land a surprise 2-1 victory in the Wisden Trophy.
Moeen came out of the contest with more satisfaction than most, a disappointing return with the bat handsomely offset by 14 wickets at 23.85.
That took him to 177 Test scalps – fourth among England spinners, overtaking Monty Panesar and Tony Lock, and behind only the vaunted trio of Jim Laker, Graeme Swann and Derek Underwood.
Not long ago such a placing looked out of the 31-year-old’s grasp. After a dreadful Ashes series in 2017/18 he was eventually dropped for the first time and missed six successive England matches.
Jack Leach made his debut in Christchurch; Dom Bess took the spin role in the two-match series against Pakistan, and Moeen’s close friend Rashid was recalled from the red-ball wilderness to face India.
Since being recalled for the last two matches of that series he has flourished, with his combined haul from the recent Tests against Sri Lanka and West Indies -32 scalps in all – streets ahead of any teammate.
A naturally modest man, Moeen nevertheless admits being left out hurt.
“It hit me hard, well, it was disappointing. I felt like they were looking for someone else,” he said.
“I did need that break at the time but it spurred me on. I still had the belief.
“Things happen for a reason. Maybe if I’d been picked versus Pakistan I wouldn’t have bowled well. But I came back against India fresh, scoring runs and taking wickets, and I felt at the top of my game.
“I feel like I belong. People might think I don’t because they think I’m not a proper spinner. But when you go past some of the greats, for me, I think ‘Maybe I am a good spinner. I must have done OK to get that many wickets’.”
With his role in the side finally settled, he has his sights set on adding another string to his bow – fielding at slip.
Moeen pulled off a blinding one-handed catch at gully to dismiss John Campbell in St Lucia and replaced Jos Buttler in the cordon after the latter dropped a pair of chances.
“I want to be a guy who can field anywhere. I field at slip for Worcestershire and I’d like to be in the cordon at some stage,” he said.