Monday, October 16th, 2017

Tongue Caps Memorable First Season With Lions Call-Up

Worcestershire paceman Josh Tongue’s memorable first year of senior cricket has reached new heights with a call-up into the England Lions squad for a training camp in Australia during November and December.

The 19-year-old played a major role in the County’s Specsavers County Championship Division Two promotion campaign with 47 wickets.

Redditch born Tongue played all 14 games – a notable feat after his previous back problems.

He was initially picked – along with Worcestershire team-mate George Scrimshaw – to be part of the ECB Pace Programme during the forthcoming months.

But now the Academy product has been chosen as a replacement in the Lions squad for the injured Essex paceman Jamie Porter who has a back injury and will link up with the Pace Programme as part of his rehabilitation work.

Tongue will join up in the Lions squad with his Worcestershire team-mate Joe Clarke.

Worcestershire Director Of Cricket Steve Rhodes said: “Talk about wonderful opportunites. Josh will be bowling against the England Test boys (out in Australia for the Ashes) in practice.

“That is a marvellous opportunity for him to impress them. He has had a wonderful season in his first year.

“There is an element of you thinking the England Fast Bowling Programme he was going on, that is just about right because he can rest up, get himself stronger, ease off a bit of bowling and then hit the bowling at the right time.

“But if he has got a chance now of impressing with England Lions then that outweighs that England Pace Programme in terms of his own ambitions to eventually be an England player.

“For a 19-year-old lad to get picked in that is unbelievable and testament to him and his skills as a bowler.”

Tongue said: “I wasn’t expecting to play  as many games as I have this season and getting promoted is a massive achievement for me as well.

“It is one of the things I wanted to do in my career as well, to win a Championship. When I started out as a young lad, you want to play and win things.

“I was on the Pace Bowling Programme but now being selected in for the Lions this winter, I can’t wait to start that. It’s an amazing feeling.

“Andy Flower rang me and said they had an injury in the Lions squad and they wanted to choose me as a replacement.

“A lot of the squad play in Division One and it will be good to talk to some of the other bowlers who have been playing Championship cricket for two or three years and pick their brains.”

Tongue admitted: “Have I got ambitions to play for England one day? That has been my goal ever since I was really young.

“The Lions is one further step on the pathway towards that but I know there is a lot of hard work to be done and much to learn.”

James Whitaker, the National Selector, said: “While it was initially surprising and disappointing for Jamie and for us to discover he has a stress fracture, we have agreed with him and with Essex that this new approach is the best option.

“Spending the first half of the winter on the Pace Programme will allow him to take a break from competitive cricket after two excellent and demanding seasons for Essex, allowing the injury to recover, and for a focus on his rehabilitation.

“We believe that will give him the best chance of being in peak condition for the competitive phase of the Lions winter programme, with four-day and one-day series in the West Indies early next year.

“It also creates a space on the Lions camp in Australia, which represents a wonderful opportunity for young Josh Tongue.

“He is another exciting young fast bowler who made a major contribution to Worcestershire’s promotion campaign, and we believe he will benefit from the chance to work with the Lions and to spend some time in Australia in an Ashes winter.”

Kevin Shine, the ECB’s fast-bowling lead who heads up the Pace Programme, said: “As ever, we’ve worked closely with the players and their counties, and we think this is a good solution.

“Jamie relished his first Lions experience this summer and we’ve agreed with Essex for him to spend a couple of months with the Pace Programme, at the Performance Centre in Loughborough with a warm-weather camp at Desert Springs in Spain, to get him fit and ready to join the Lions in the West Indies after Christmas.

“For Josh, he gets to sample the Ashes atmosphere in Australia, as well as gaining experience of working with the Lions.”

The Lions will spend a week at the Performance Centre in Loughborough before flying to Brisbane on November 14, for a two-week camp with a red-ball focus.

This will culminate in a three-day match against a Queensland XI at the Allan Border Oval from November 27-29 – although this will not be an official England Lions fixture.

They then head west to Perth for two weeks focusing on white-ball skills during which they will play three T20 matches against a Scorchers team who will be preparing for the Big Bash.

The Lions squad for a seven-week trip to the West Indies in 2018, including three four-day matches and three 50-over fixtures, will be selected in December, along with the squads for the North-South Series which follows in Barbados in March.