Josh Tongue has been parachuted into the England team for the first Test of the summer against Ireland starting on Thursday, with the Worcestershire seamer set to make his debut after edging Mark Wood and Chris Woakes out of the side.
England’s head coach, Brendon McCullum, described Tongue as “a big strong lad” who “bowls quite fast and has some real skills” after watching him in action during the team’s first training session of the summer on Monday. After their second, McCullum broke the news to Tongue that he would play against Ireland.
“I bowled at some of the lads on Monday,” Tongue said. “I felt like I bowled nicely and obviously I was going in with no expectations to be playing at all, and just bowling at high-class players in the nets was good for me. I must have bowled fairly well to get selected.
“Baz came up to me just before training finished [on Tuesday] and gave me the good news. It’s an amazing feeling, a dream come true really.”
Neither Wood nor Woakes are injured, though the former’s participation was in doubt as England sought to manage the workload of their one remaining bowler of express pace before the Ashes, which starts at Edgbaston on 16 June. Olly Stone, who might have provided a fast-bowling option, has been ruled out of that match with a hamstring strain while Jofra Archer will miss the summer with a recurrence of an elbow injury.
Tongue has his own experience with serious injury having spent 15 months with thoracic outlet syndrome, the compression of nerves in the shoulder, during which he considered retiring from the game altogether. “I’m just proud of myself and how I held in there,” he said.
“I was very close to retiring – I’d had two operations, seen a lot of specialists and I was in a really dark place. I don’t think there’s that many bowlers who have been in the same situation as me. Obviously nearly retiring, then getting called up to the Lions in Sri Lanka in the winter and now the Test squad, I’m just proud of myself. Knowing I stuck in there, and it’s come good.”
Tongue, who has been associated with Worcestershire since he was six years old – he becomes the county’s first England debutant since Moeen Ali in 2014 – insisted he was not yet allowing himself to dream of being involved in the Ashes. “I’m the sort of person to stay in the present,” he said. “I try not to think too much ahead of myself, and whatever game I play in I just try and do as much as I can for the team to win a game of cricket. Those things will come, hopefully.”
With Ben Stokes unlikely to bowl as he nurses a long-term knee injury, the team’s three seamers could be forced to shoulder a considerable workload, and it may be that the avoidance of risk was uppermost in McCullum’s mind when the side was selected, although Tongue is hardly a safe bet on that front having recently recovered from a side strain.
England’s top six are unchanged from the side that played throughout the winter, with Jonny Bairstow returning from injury as wicketkeeper in place of Ben Foakes. Tongue’s seam-bowling support comes from Matthew Potts, who is making his sixth Test appearance and first since the team last played at Lord’s, against South Africa last August, and Stuart Broad, who makes his 162nd appearance.
England team to play Ireland at Lord’s Ben Duckett, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes (c), Bairstow (w), Stuart Broad, Matthew Potts, Josh Tongue, Jack Leach.