England 'don't know' when Moeen Ali will be back
England chief selector Ed Smith says he "doesn't know" if or when Moeen Ali will return to the national side.
The all-rounder, 32, is not in the 17-man squad for the four-match Test series in South Africa, which starts on 26 December.
Moeen was granted time off from Test cricket in August after asking for a break following poor performances.
"In an ideal world we would like Mo to be available but we have to deal with the situation as it is," Smith said.
"We all know Mo is a talented and valued cricketer for England. At the moment we just don't know if and when that might happen.
"We respect that and we hope he will return to be available sooner rather than later."
In November, Test captain Joe Root said Moeen "adds a different dimension," to the side but that the spinner has to feel "comfortable and ready" to return.
Moeen's request for a break came after a run of poor form, including in the opening Ashes Test at Edgbaston, which resulted in him being dropped from the squad.