MOEEN Ali has suggested he was made a scapegoat when England struggled at Test cricket.

The 32-year-old Worcestershire ace has not played for his country since being dropped after the first Ashes Test in August following a poor run of form.

In September he lost his ECB central contract for Test cricket, only receiving a white-ball contract, and he took a break from the red-ball game.

Moeen said: “A lot of the time if we lose I feel I am one of the first guys to get the blame for it.

“I found, yes, there have been days when I have not had good games but I feel sometimes it is easy to point the finger at me.

"It did get to me and that was one of the reasons why I needed to step back from Test cricket.

“I felt like I was drained from it all. I do think that but I have got to become a stronger person for that as well. It is difficult but I will be fine.”

Moeen was a member of Eoin Morgan’s World Cup-winning 50-over side but was dropped during the tournament on home soil and did not play in July’s final.

He then lost his place in the Test team a month later despite being the world’s leading Test wicket-taker during the previous 12 months.

The all-rounder subsequently took a short break from cricket before his hiatus from red-ball cricket was confirmed when he was not included in the tour of New Zealand.

Moeen has since played franchise cricket in South Africa and Abu Dhabi but is back in England’s white-ball squad for three one-day internationals and three Twenty20 fixtures in South Africa.

He is then set to play in the Pakistan Super League which coincides with Chris Silverwood’s team taking on Sri Lanka in two Tests in March.

With first-choice spinner Jack Leach being sent home from the ongoing tour of South Africa after battling a series of health issues, Moeen could have found himself back in the Test fold for the red-ball games in Sri Lanka.

On a potential return, he said: “I’m not sure yet. I’m going to go to South Africa now for the one-day stuff and decide probably there and speak to a few people.

“I’ll definitely come back when I feel ready. England — the ECB — have been amazing in terms of support and they fully understand where I’m coming from.

“Being in all forms of the game is not the easiest thing at the moment as we play so much cricket.

"There’s no time frame. When I’m ready I’ll come back for sure but I know I’ve got to fight for my spot and earn my spot again.”

Meanwhile, Worcestershire will be returning to Abu Dhabi in March for a pre-season tour which will include five days of action against Somerset.

First-team Coach Alex Gidman confirmed the County will be flying out to the UAE for a seventh successive year on March 18 and returning on March 29.

The squad will be put through their paces in three days of practice sessions before initially taking on Somerset in a one-day red-ball fixture.

It will be followed on the following day with two T20 matches and then a three-day game.

Gidman is looking forward to the players honing their skills through the warm-weather training and then against last season’s County Championship Division One runners-up.

He said: “Somerset are one of the better teams in the country and it is always good to play these kind of quality sides in pre-season.

“It gives you a good gauge of what we are striving for in the build-up to the season.”

The tour is later in March than previous years with Gidman keen to reduce the gap between returning from the UAE to the start of the domestic campaign.

He said: “I wanted to try to have the period from getting back to England until the first Championship game down to about two-and-a-half weeks.”

Worcestershire will return to action almost immediately on their return with three days against Warwickshire at Edgbaston from March 31 to April 2.

They will then travel to take on Loughborough MCCU from April 7 to 9 before the opening County Championship fixture against Middlesex at Lord’s starting on April 12.