Josh Tongue to make his England Test debut against Ireland

Josh Tongue will make his England Test debut against Ireland ahead of Chris Woakes… 15 months after a shoulder injury threatened the Worcestershire bowler’s career

  • Josh Tongue has been handed an England test debut against Ireland at Lord’s
  • The Worcestershire bowler impressed after recovering from a shoulder injury
  • Chris Woakes had initially been expected to come into Ben Stokes’ England team

England will hand a Test debut at Lord’s to a bowler who last year feared his career was over.

Such was the severity of the shoulder injury that kept Josh Tongue out of action for 15 months that the Worcestershire fast bowler was considering alternative employment.

But he returned to such positive effect for the Lions in Sri Lanka last winter and then when he became the first man in county cricket to take the wicket of Steve Smith earlier this season that England sprung a surprise.

They announced a team for Thursday’s one-off Test against Ireland that included Tongue but excluded Chris Woakes, who had earlier spoke with enthusiasm about returning to the England Test side for the first time under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum.

Woakes was clearly in for a shock when England, as expected, rested first choice Ashes bowlers in Jimmy Anderson, Ollie Robinson and Mark Wood but handed Tongue a debut in place of the unfortunate veteran.

Bowler Josh Tongue will make his Test debut for England when they face Ireland at Lord’s 

The Worcestershire seamer became the first man to take Steve Smith’s wicket this season

Smith is among the 11 wickets Tongue has taken in this season’s County Championship

It could easily have been over for Tongue before now. He saw three specialists before getting to the bottom of a nerve issue in his shoulder but then became a surprise selection for last winter’s Lions red-ball tour, where he impressed against Sri Lanka.

Now England have decided to take a look at a bowler who might just provide that x-factor of extra pace, with both Jofra Archer and Olly Stone ruled out and only Mark Wood still standing among options that provide a point of difference.

‘When I went through those tough times I was tempted to pull the pin, retire and find something else to do,’ admitted Tongue, 25. ‘I didn’t know if I’d be able to play cricket again.

‘I was in a dark place for those 15 months, just not knowing what was happening. But I’m just so glad I hung in there and stayed strong.’

It is a positive selection by England in keeping with every move they have made under Stokes and McCullum. They know what Woakes can do whereas Tongue is a largely unknown quantity and they can spend the next four days seeing if he is ready to be added to England’s group of Ashes fast bowlers.

Either that or they are more worried about the minor issues affecting Anderson and Robinson than they are admitting and do not want to risk Woakes but that seems unlikely. Stuart Broad and Matthew Potts both play but they will be joined by a debutant instead of an old hand.

‘I will definitely bring pace,’ added Tongue when he was last week added to the 15-man England squad for this Ashes appetiser. ‘As I am quite tall I can bring pace and bounce, a bit of movement and hopefully a few wickets.

‘I’ve never played at Lord’s before for Worcester so it’s my first time being here and experiencing the ground. It’s an amazing feeling and to make my Test debit as well.’

Tongue, 25, underwent career-saving shoulder surgery before returning to action last year

Chris Woakes had been expected to play but England have instead handed a debut to Tongue 

McCullum has clearly been impressed with Tongue over two days of net practice for England at Lord’s and said: ‘He’s a big strong lad, that’s for sure. He looks like he bowls quite fast and has some real skills. He is a bit of a rough diamond and has had some problems with injuries but we think he’s got something really exciting.’

Ireland, meanwhile, were forced to defend a man who is not here in the form of their best player Josh Little, who played in the final of the IPL for Gujarat on Monday and is missing this Test to prioritise World Cup qualifiers for the Irish next month.

‘He’s a very valuable asset and making sure we manage him accordingly is really important for us and him,’ said Ireland coach Heinrich Malan.

England (v Ireland on Thursday): Duckett, Crawley, Pope, Root, Brook, Stokes (captain), Bairstow (keeper), Broad, Potts, Tongue, Leach.

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