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News

Josh Tongue has Steven Smith back in his sights after notable county clash

Fast bowler's success against Smith during his Sussex stint was big factor in Test fast-tracking

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
27-Jun-2023
Josh Tongue impressed Ben Stokes with his versatility in the first Test  •  PA Photos/Getty Images

Josh Tongue impressed Ben Stokes with his versatility in the first Test  •  PA Photos/Getty Images

Josh Tongue has only taken 11 wickets for Worcestershire in the County Championship's second division this season but one of them earned him more attention than the other 10 put together.
In his first innings of a controversial three-match stint with Sussex, Steven Smith had made 30 when Tongue's nip-backer struck him just above the top of his pad at New Road. Smith did not seem thrilled with the lbw decision as he dragged himself off, but Tongue clenched both fists, becoming the first England bowler to dismiss him this summer.
At Lord's this week, he has the chance to repeat the trick. "It would be great to get Steve Smith out again," Tongue said on Tuesday, after being named in England's team for the second Ashes Test. "I was pretty happy the first time so, if I can do it on a second occasion, that would be good for the team as well and hopefully that will happen."
Pat Cummins, Australia's captain, hadn't realised that Tongue had been one of the bowlers to dismiss Smith during his time with Sussex. "I didn't know he was bowling," Cummins said. "[But] I certainly heard there were a couple of LBWs Smithy didn't totally agree with."
Getting Smith out did no harm to Tongue's case for selection at Lord's, but it was hardly the only factor. Rob Key, England's director of men's cricket, was on hand to watch him take a five-wicket haul for England Lions in Sri Lanka earlier this year and his success on Test debut against Ireland at the start of this month - he took 5 for 66 in the second innings - came at the same venue.
"I knew the step up from county cricket to international cricket would be a big one, and playing here at Lord's was a very special moment for myself, having never played here before," Tongue said. "To then get five wickets against Ireland on my debut was an incredible feeling and should give me confidence ahead of another chance against Australia.
"There was a bit of pace in the wicket against Ireland so more of that would be nice," he added. "There is a green tinge to the pitch at the moment which would benefit all of our seamers. And if there is a bit of nip and movement in the air then I think our bowling unit can benefit from that and use the conditions in our favour."
Ben Stokes, England's captain, said he was "particularly impressed" with Tongue's ability to play "different roles with the ball" on debut - specifically, his willingness to deliver short-ball barrages. "His first spell was just running up and bowling, trying to bowl wicket-taking deliveries," Stokes said.
"But then we used him in a different way, where we attacked the Ireland batters with our short-ball plan. Broady, Jimmy and Robbo will tell you it's always nice having someone who can bowl at 90mph doing it. Just having that versatility as a bowler this week is going to be very useful."
And Tongue believes he is up to the task. "Coming into the side now for the next Test, I feel like I can add a bit more pace and bounce to the attack - and hopefully I can get a few wickets for the team as well," he said. "Whatever Stokesy asks me to do for the team, I'm here to do it as best I can."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98