IRELAND’S TOUR OF ENGLAND, 2023
Tongue picked a fifer in the second innings against Ireland. © Getty
Ben Stokes seemed a happy man while talking about England’s latest debutant Josh Tongue who had a fine start to international cricket with a fifer in the second innings. Tongue was a surprise addition to the squad as Stokes and the management stressed on the need for a pace-filled enforcer in the seam attack. The 25-year-old’s methods with the ball at different stages in the game have certainly gone down well with Stokes.
“I told him the role that I saw him playing in this team as our third seamer, and used him in a way to get different types of spells out of one bowler,” Stokes added.
“His first spell, he came on and bowled really well pitching the ball up. Then we looked to use his pace to use him as the aggressor when we needed to and the wicket got a bit flat. For him to show he’s more than one type of bowler does us the world of good as a team going forward, knowing we’ve found someone else who can fulfil the role of the guys with the extra pace”
With Jofra Archer ruled out for the immediate future and Mark Wood battling fitness concerns, England have been on the lookout for a fast bowler with extra pace, particularly given the sameness of their pace attack otherwise. In short, they’ve needed an enforcer who’d add the cutting edge to their bowling attack, particularly when the surfaces aren’t offering much for the batters.
While a Test match in England isn’t the right sample to judge this, Tongue did do the basics well. Apart from having good pace, Tongue is also blessed with workhorse-like qualities as he has the fitness to bowl long spells. It is a quality that’s seldom found with genuine pacers and Stokes was lavish in his praise for the debutant.
“Bowling the long spell yesterday and two long spells today, I wasn’t quite sure of how to manage him so early on,” said Stokes. “But I was very, very impressed with the way he just said yes to the plans I wanted him to operate under.”
While Tongue’s form in the County Championship this season has been underwhelming, he’s always been a pacer who has made the England management sit up and take notice. There is one big achievement that Tongue unlocked during the domestic season, one that bowlers across the world will envy him for – getting the wicket of Steve Smith.
With the Ashes around the corner, this is a definite boost to his CV, although he surely wasn’t picked in the XI for that alone. With a tall frame to work with, Tongue has the ability to generate extra bounce, that too at high pace and it is a combination that can pose a threat for the best of players. However, the first innings didn’t exactly go to plan for Tongue who was justly rewarded in the second essay.
“He was very unlucky not to get a wicket in the first innings but he definitely reaped the rewards [in the second],” Stokes said. “The way he bowled contributed to the five wickets he got in that innings because they were already on the back foot against him, knowing he’s got that extra bit of pace. He can bowl 90mph full and short, so he was sort of one step ahead in the second innings already because of how he bowled in the first innings.”
“I kept it simple,” Stokes said. “I told him to just run in and do what you do – and then I’ll worry about the rest of the stuff. Let the lad go out and bowl in the way that’s got him here in the first place.”