Home » JOSH TONGUE INTERVIEW: The pace bowler on his ‘dream come true’ Ashes nod and targeting Steve Smith

JOSH TONGUE INTERVIEW: The pace bowler on his ‘dream come true’ Ashes nod and targeting Steve Smith

by Press room

It’s barely two years since Josh Tongue walked over to his Worcestershire team-mate Ish Sodhi during a T20 match in Northampton and said he couldn’t feel his right arm. His hand had gone cold, and was turning blue. It would be his final game of county cricket for nearly 15 months.

Now, as the nation crosses its fingers for an England win in the second Ashes Test at Lord’s, Tongue finds himself in the thick of things. Called up to answer Ben Stokes’s desire for pace, he is targeting the wicket of Steve Smith – after becoming the first bowler this summer to dismiss him during his brief stint with Sussex.

Tongue, who took a second-innings five-for on Test debut against Ireland at Lord’s earlier this month, was told of his inclusion in the team huddle before training yesterday. ‘I’ve dreamt as a young kid growing up about playing in an Ashes series, so to get the nod now is that dream come true,’ he said.

It’s also a quantum leap for a 25-year-old cricketer who briefly wondered if he would ever play again after the shoulder injury that ended his season so dramatically in 2021. Two operations proved unhelpful, before a Botox injection did the trick.

After a successful tour of Sri Lanka with England Lions earlier this year, Tongue took his place in a second-string attack against the Irish, having impressed Stokes and Brendon McCullum in the nets. But it was his second-innings spell of bouncers that really caught the management’s eye, with England always on the lookout for something extra to supplement their battery of 83mph right-arm seamers.

Josh Tongue has received his dreamlike call-up just two years after a severe shoulder injury

The 25-year-old impressed against Ireland during England's warm-up Test at Lord's in June

The 25-year-old impressed against Ireland during England’s warm-up Test at Lord’s in June

For those who know him well on the county circuit, his ascent has come as no surprise. ‘The legend goes that he played an Under-10 game for Worcestershire at the age of six,’ says club head coach Alan Richardson. ‘He was identified early as a high-potential cricketer, and he’s got the physicality for bowling quick.’

Richardson believes there’s far more to Tongue than the role of enforcer, which he may have to fulfil over the next few days.

‘He hits the seam and moves the ball both ways, but he has the advantage of being able to do both that and bowl quick bouncers in the late-80mphs that come straight for the head because of an awkward action where the arm goes slightly beyond the perpendicular.

‘Like Mark Wood, he has the capability to move up and down the dial and provide another option. He’ll cope really well with the pressure. He’ll be nervous, no doubt, but he’s laid-back and one of his strengths is he takes things in his stride.’

However, Tongue may not be at Worcestershire much longer. Mail Sport understands that he is expected to confirm his departure from New Road next week following a three-way tussle for his signature.

More than a dozen counties have inquired about him since the gateway to speak to impending free agents opened on June 1, and a trio of concrete offers have followed. Lancashire and Nottinghamshire made the initial running and, although club insiders believe a switch to Old Trafford is a done deal, a third unnamed club submitted a rival bid in recent days.

The lure of playing top-flight cricket at a Test-match venue means the move will take place at the end of September, when his contract expires.

For now, Tongue’s focus in on making an impact at Lord’s, having spent the first two of the Edgbaston Test sampling the Ashes atmosphere from the dressing-room.

‘That first ball Zak hit to the boundary – the noise was just unbelievable,’ he said. ‘I’d never heard anything like it. From the moment I stepped into the dressing-room ahead of the Ireland game, I’ve been made to feel so welcome.

Tongue (pictured in 2021) briefly wondered if he would ever play again after injury struck

Tongue (pictured in 2021) briefly wondered if he would ever play again after injury struck

But he is now focused on becoming the first bowler in the country to dismiss Steve Smith twice

But he is now focused on becoming the first bowler in the country to dismiss Steve Smith twice

‘And coming into the side now, I feel like I can add a bit more pace and bounce to the attack. Hopefully I can get a few wickets as well. Whatever Stokesy asks me to do for the team I’m here to do it as best I can.’

Tongue is also hoping to become the first bowler in the country to dismiss Smith twice this summer, after trapping him leg-before for 30 at New Road in May.

‘It would be great to get Steve Smith out again,’ he said. ‘I was pretty happy the first time, so if I can do it on a second occasion that would be good for the team as well.

‘I knew the step up from county cricket to international cricket would be a big one, and playing here at Lord’s was a very special moment, having never played here before. To then get five wickets against Ireland on my debut was an incredible feeling, and should give me confidence against Australia.’

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