Josh Tongue has his sights on picking up 50 wickets in a season for the first time and an England Lions call-up as he looks to put his injury frustration well and truly behind him.
The Worcestershire CCC paceman put together hauls of 47 Specsavers County Championship wickets from a full 14 games in 2017 – his first full season – and another 40 at Division One level from 11 games last summer.
Injuries prevented him from being part of the 2018 Lions winter trip to the West Indies and then the meeting with Pakistan in the UAE before Christmas.
But Tongue is feeling fit and fine ahead of the pre-season tour of Abu Dhabi and with those two goals firmly in his mind.
He said: “I’ve been happy with how things have gone overall the last two seasons but now I want to get to that 50 wicket mark in a season.
“If I had played the other three games I missed through injury last season, potentially I could have got there then.
“It would be nice to get to that this year. I have been close with 47 in 14 games and 40 in 11 matches.
“The first year in the side gave me a lot of confidence. To get 47 wickets the first year, and play every game in the Championship, was a massive achievement for me.
“I didn’t think I was going to be playing every game after having my back injury before that season got underway.
“To then back it up last year, in Division One cricket, against better players, felt really good.”
Tongue showed his quality and potential with nine wickets against the then champions Essex at Blackfinch New Road before picking up a foot injury.
He said: “You definitely learn a lot more playing against the higher standard players. You can’t get it wrong that much. In Division Two, you may get away with a few deliveries.
“But in Division One, you’ve got to be on the mark literally from the first ball. You can’t have any looseners otherwise you could be two overs for 20 runs. Then it is hard to get your economy rate down below three.
“To get past 40 wickets in a season is good but I want to go on from that now and get 50, 60, 70 wickets a season.”
Although missing out on two Lions trips, Tongue did have the opportunity to show what he is made of when bowling in the nets to the England players in Australia during the winter of 2017-2018 when part of a Lions training camp.
He said: “To get on any Lions trip is an achievement, especially bowling to the likes of Joe Root, Alastair Cook, Jonny Bairstow etc
“It was a great opportunity to bowl at those lads, from the top level of cricket, and a good way of showing what you are capable of.
“You’ve got the England coach there, the captain and all the senior bowlers, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Chris Woakes so it was a great opportunity
“I missed out on two Lions tours to the West Indies and UAE and to get selected for them is still a big ambition for this season. One hundred per cent.
“If I start well for Worcestershire, hopefully I will get back onto the Lions radar for any cricket this summer and get picked on the tour next winter.
“It was quite disappointing to be injured and not be able to go to the UAE. Hopefully I can stay fit the whole year and get on the Lions trip.”