Moeen Ali has long been considered the one that got away at Warwickshire but now the county are understood to be planning a move that would see the England all-rounder return to the club next year.
The 29-year-old began his career at Edgbaston but left at the end of 2006 to join Worcestershire after growing frustrated at a lack of first-team opportunities under Mark Greatbatch, then director of cricket, and has since gone on to become an England regular across all three formats since his debut three years ago.
With Moeen out of contract at New Road come the end of the coming season, there is a belief at Warwickshire that he would represent a marquee signing – even when factoring in his international commitments – and one that would require little financial outlay at first given his status as a centrally contracted England player.
There is a growing acceptance at Worcestershire that Moeen is likely to leave but he would do so with a heavy heart given the club’s role in developing him as a cricketer – not least his bowling during the years spent playing alongside their former overseas cricketer, the Pakistan international Saeed Ajmal.
Suitors would first need to put in 28 days notice after 10 April to speak to Moeen formally, a period that allows Worcestershire to make a first offer to stay.
Middlesex and Hampshire are also said to be monitoring the situation but Warwickshire believe they are favourites at this stage given Moeen still lives in Birmingham, just three miles from Edgbaston, and has previously stated he wants to remain in the area he was born and grew up in. His brother, Kadeer Ali, with whom he is currently on a pilgrimage to Mecca, is also on the coaching staff.
Ashley Giles, Warwickshire’s new sport director, has stated his aim to engage more with the Asian community in the city in a bid to increase the number of locally-produced cricketers and boost domestic audiences and in this regard Moeen is considered the ideal figurehead with to spur such a drive.
The county are looking for a spin option for when Jeetan Patel, 36, eventually calls time on his career and also need to bolster a batting line-up that is heavily reliant on Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott, who are both in their mid-30s.