Saturday, October 29th, 2022


Josh Tongue says it was an “amazing” feeling to be back playing for Worcestershire at the end of last season after admitting he had been contemplating retirement because of his long-term shoulder problem.

The pace bowler played in the final two Royal London Cup matches, then three successive LV=Insurance County Championship matches in September.

It was a happy conclusion to a campaign which began with Tongue thinking his career could be over after two operations and seeing two specialists had not resolved his setback.

But now he is looking forward to an entire winter training programme with the aim of firing on all cylinders for the start of the 2023 season.

Here Josh looks back at the challenges he has faced and his hopes for the future.

Question: What did it mean to you to be back playing at the end of the season?

Josh Tongue: “It was amazing. From saying I’m not going to play all year’, that it was going to be a rehab season, to playing first for Barnards Green, then the last two Royal London Cup and last three County Championship games, it was fantastic. 

“I just couldn’t believe I was back playing for Worcestershire and being with the lads.”

Question: You got two wickets against Essex in your first Royal London Cup game. How nervous were you going into that?

Josh Tongue: “It was a long time coming, 14-15 months, and the first over, my hands were very sticky, and I had to dry them on the wicket ends. But after that, I was straight back into it.

“Any wickets settle you down, even if you have been playing for ten years, and that adrenalin rush came back again, and I just couldn’t wait to get back out there and bowling again.”

Question: Was there ever a time when you wondered if you would play again?

Josh Tongue: “Not many people know this, but I was close to pulling the pin and retiring because of my shoulder.

“At that stage, I didn’t know what was happening with my shoulder. I’d seen two specialists, and I didn’t know what was happening, and mentally I was in a really bad place.

“I was close to retiring and finding something else to do because I just couldn’t go through it again. I’d had two operations, and four in total, and not many 24-year-olds have four operations.

“The two operations on the shoulder didn’t do anything but then Andy Powell (Head of Sports Science and Medicine) knew someone who knew a third specialist in Cheadle, and I saw him, had a few scans and an ultrasound scan, and that detected what the problem was.

“I had a Botox injection in my neck to try and settle down the nerves, and luckily it worked, and I was back bowling within a month and a bit.”

Question: It must have been a great feeling to be told there was a solution?

Josh Tongue: “I was going into the meeting with the specialist thinking ‘this is going to be the end of the road’ and ‘I’ve got to think what I’m going to do after cricket’. 

“The scan showed I had an impingement in my arm artery next to my rib. Even if it does come back, I can have another Botox injection and can have one every six months if needed. That is my backup plan.

“But since coming back bowling, being in the gym, getting back fit, I’ve had no problems at all.”

Question: Although you came back in August, you had been doing a lot of bowling work before that?

Josh Tongue: “I did a lot of bowling and fitness work. After 15 months out of the game, I put a bit of weight on, and I knew I had to lose that to get back bowling.

“I did a lot of gym work with Pete (Sim) and a lot of bowling work with Alan Richardson, and I’m just grateful for everyone that was supporting me – Andy (Powell), Pete (Sim), Tom Sears (Assistant Physio) and Alan (Richardson).

“Also, the lads, my close mates like Dillon (Pennington), Adam (Finch), Jack (Haynes). They just gave me loads of good feedback.” 

Question: When you started bowling again, was what had happened in the back of your mind or did you soon forget about it.?

Josh Tongue: “It was a tiny bit in the back of my mind when I first got back bowling in training, but it was more in my mind when I first started bowling at a batter again.

“When I was bowling by myself, I was absolutely fine, but when you face a batter, obviously the intensity goes up a bit more, and you put a bit more into it because you are having a battle against a batter.

“But after the first couple of sessions, I was absolutely fine and then had a couple of games for Barnards Green, and things went on from there.”

Question: Did the fact your partner Lizzie was expecting a baby help to get you through such a difficult period cricket-wise?

Josh Tongue: “Definitely. I’ve got a son (Luca) to provide for, which gave me something positive to focus on when going through the low times.”

Question: You were picked for the Lions three times and had to pull out, but at 24 you’ve still got a lot of good years in front of you?

Josh Tongue: “That’s the positive I’ve got. I was picked for the Lions at a young age after that first season, and I still have plenty of time. 

“I’m 25 in November and still got many years left playing cricket.

“My main focus at the moment is just to be fit and play for Worcestershire, help Worcestershire to win lots of games.”

Question: You’ve got that pace, bounce, and aggression towards batters and offer a different option?

Josh Tongue: “I think you need that. In a four or five-man bowling attack, I think you need that bit of pace, just something different. 

“Batters can line you up if the attack is similar and having that different sort of bowler in your attack is crucial for a team.”

Question: Did you feel you were getting back to your best by the end of the season?

Josh Tongue: “I bowled a lot more overs towards the end of the season. I had a good chat with Alan (Richardson), and he said that initially, they were not expecting much from me just because I had been out for so long.

“They wanted to protect me and that’s why I think we had the five-seamer attack at the end of the season. They didn’t want me to break down again.

“My best spell was against Nottinghamshire at New Road when I got Haseeb Hameed out, and that is where I want to be next year all the time; just be consistent like that again.

“There were little snippets of where I want to be, but there was a bit that wasn’t, which was understandable.”

Question: What is the plan for this winter?

Josh Tongue: “We report back on November 14, and the aim is to do gym work, a lot of technical stuff with Alan, and just to get as fit as I can and hit the ground running next year, really.”

Question: You didn’t end the season too badly with the bat, 45 not out and 39 not out?

Josh Tongue: “We have a little tally on the board in the changing rooms, a little competition involving all the bowlers. 

“All the bowlers want to be the best batter and bowler.

“They want to bat as high as they can. It’s really good fun, but it is also quite crucial. Bowlers can bat now.

“It is entirely different to when you are bowling to a top-order batter. You’ve got to be more precise in your line because at any width, they will just throw their hands at it and it will go for four.

“Runs down the bottom order are crucial. I’m the only one who hasn’t got a fifty. Dillon keeps saying it to me!”

Question: Have you been impressed with the way Dillon Pennington stepped forward and had his most consistent season?

Josh Tongue: “He is the sort of bowler who puts a lot of hard work in before and after games, analyses his bowling a lot, and I’m not surprised he is where he is now.

“Another good year next year, and you never know where it can go. That’s like any member of our bowling attack, so close to the next step up, like Jack has got this winter with the Lions.

“It was always going to come, just like his first hundred, it was just a case of when.

“I knew as soon as he got his first hundred, he was going to keep going and get a few more.”

Question: Your record in first class cricket shows you often take wickets?

Josh Tongue: “I try my best. Even if I don’t take wickets, I know what I do at my end may bring a wicket the other end. 

“We always say as a bowling unit ‘bowl in partnerships, bowl dot balls’ and that will put pressure on the batters. 

“Either end, it doesn’t matter as long as we get wickets and bowl a team out. It is nice to get the wickets yourself.”