England have handed Josh Tongue a Test debut for this week’s first international of the summer against Ireland at Lord’s.
Even then, it was a shock when he was called into England’s squad as injury cover for the one-off Test against Ireland that starts on Thursday.
In fact, so unfamiliar was Tongue in the run-up to his call-up even some of his England kit – specifically his helmet box – was spelt incorrectly, with the word “Tounge” adorning it.
However, he could yet have a reunion with Smith in this summer’s Ashes after being parachuted into the XI to face the Irish – England’s only cricket before the series against Australia starts at Edgbaston on 16 June.
In what amounts to an incredibly bullish start to this Ashes summer even for Bazball, England named their team for Lord’s two days before the start of the Test.
As expected, both James Anderson and Ollie Robinson, nursing groin and ankle injuries respectively, were left out of the XI. There was no place either for Chris Woakes, despite the all-rounder being put up for media duties at Lord’s on Tuesday.
That suggested the 34-year-old was set for his first Test appearance in 18 months yet he was overlooked as Tongue, Matthew Potts and Stuart Broad were named as England’s three seam bowlers for the match.
There were no other surprises in the XI, with the top six the same as throughout the winter and Jonny Bairstow named as wicketkeeper at No7 having displaced Ben Foakes from the squad.
The non-appearance of Woakes could be interpreted in two ways. Either he is not a serious contender to play in the Ashes. Or the injuries to Anderson and Robinson are worse than England are letting on and they were not prepared to risk Woakes ahead of the opening Ashes Test in just over a fortnight’s time.
Mark Wood, England’s only out-and-out pace bowler who can consistently hit 90 miles per hour, was also rested for Lord’s ahead of the Ashes.
Yet Tongue is probably the quickest bowler other than Wood currently available to England given the injuries to Jofra Archer and Olly Stone. And it seems to have got him an unexpected debut for this opening Test of the summer.
Tongue, who was told the news by coach Brendon McCullum after training at Lord’s on Tuesday, said: “It’s an amazing feeling. I’m speechless really, even from when I got the first call up to be in the squad. Now being in the actual team, it’s just a dream come true really.
“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 debut as well. I’ve come to watch Test matches with my family, my Dad, but first time playing here.”
Tongue’s Test debut is rich reward for his persistence in coming back from a career-threatening shoulder injury last year. Nerve damage made it difficult for him to even move the joint but after a painstaking recovery the first signs he was on the road to Test cricket came last winter when he impressed for England Lions on their tour of Sri Lanka.
“I’m just proud of myself and how I held in there,” he said. “I was very close to retiring just due to my shoulder. Having two operations, seeing a lot of specialists – I was in a really dark place.
“Obviously nearly retiring, then getting called up to the Lions in Sri Lanka in the winter and now obviously getting called into the Test squad. I’m just proud of myself really.”
And despite getting the better of Smith earlier this summer, he’s not dreaming of the Ashes just yet. “I’m the sort of person to stay in the present,” he said. “I try not to think too much ahead of myself. Those things will come, hopefully. So I’m not really thinking about the Ashes as such at the minute. I’m trying to focus on this game first.”
England team to face Ireland
- Ben Duckett
- Zak Crawley
- Ollie Pope
- Joe Root
- Harry Brook
- Ben Stokes (c)
- Jonny Bairstow
- Stuart Broad
- Matthew Potts
- Josh Tongue (Debut)
- Jack Leach