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To extend his career, New England bowler Josh Tongue opted to get Botox injections

Botox could relieve the pressure on the nerves in Tongue’s shoulder, making it possible for him to charge in with the ball again.

A small amount of Botox was ultimately all that was needed. And with that, Josh Tongue’s 15 months of suffering, lack of sleep, and inability to even make himself a cup of tea were over.

Two previous shoulder surgeries had been unsuccessful, and now a rib removal procedure was imminent.

Specialist after specialist had been consulted before this one was found. He was the one who speculated that a cosmetic injection could ease the pressure on the nerves in Tongue’s shoulder, allowing him to once again charge in with the ball in his hand.

At this very moment, on the eve of England’s Test summer, Tongue is awaiting his 711th cap.

From the moment he picked up an early morning call from an unfamiliar New Zealand number, Tongue’s week has been nonstop action. Tongue’s agent, Phil Weston, claims that just hearing Brendon McCullum’s voice “took his breath away” when he received the call. His shock was palpable. This, however, was not a dream.

McCullum included Tongue in the starting XI for Thursday’s one-off Test against Ireland at Lord’s because he thought he was ready after just two training sessions.

Overcoming adversity: Tongue’s story

Things could have turned out very differently. Over the course of the last 18 months, Tongue has contemplated quitting the sport on more than one occasion. Tongue sat on the sidelines for 434 consecutive nights, from June 2021 to August 2022. Getting through the day had become difficult, especially during the colder months. The freezing temperatures made the constant tingling and numbness in his arm worse.

In fact, discussions were held with the Professional Cricketers’ Association, whose backing is crucial.

But then the pressure began to ease. Tongue had decided to continue the battle regardless. He “wanted to find out how far he could go,” as Weston put it. However, before he had surgery, a third shoulder specialist named David Murray offered the unorthodox solution of Botox injections. Tongue followed suit, and in less than two months, he was back at the lanes.

It was in a 50-over match against Essex that he made his comeback. Tongue only needed eight overs to pick up two wickets and forty-one runs. He only played for Worcestershire five times that year (2022), but he was on the Lions’ squad that played against Sri Lanka A in the winter, and he took eight wickets.

Alan Richardson, the head coach for Worcestershire, says that seeing his player’s shoulders drop and chest expand afterward “worked wonders for him.” What he went through was something I hope no one else has to experience. He had to delve below the surface. His enthusiasm for the sport is the driving force. He’s a real inspiration for the guys.”

To prevent future problems, Tongue has gotten another round of Botox injections. It’s enough to get him through the summer, and maybe even to start a regular schedule after that.

Tongue has had more Botox injections to prevent future issues.

Tongue has had more Botox injections to prevent future issues.

‘There was a lot to work with’

“He was one of those guys who were sure to achieve well in life,” said Gavin Haynes, father of Worcestershire middle-order batsman Jack Haynes and, more crucially, head of the county’s Developing Player Program during Tongue’s pre-Academy days.

Tongue relies heavily on pace. In the case of the Ashes series, those extra clicks are well worth it. Brydon Carse and Jamie Overton, for example, might have been in the running to play against Australia if they hadn’t been injured. Tongue has surpassed Sam Cook and Craig Overton, two of the best seamers in the County Championship, and this is likely due to his improved pace.

In fact, a metatarsal injury in 2018 prompted Tongue to reevaluate: “He used to hit the ball with his toes but has now flattened out a bit. That’s forced him to work technically rather hard, and it’s resulted in some slightly new shapes. He puts in a lot of time aligning his body, and it has paid off in the form of increased speed.”

But being fast isn’t enough to get you an England debut or 162 first-class wickets at a little bit over 26 per game.

Even when “not feeling great” or “not in such a terrific spot,” technically, “he has an unfailing ability to be very accurate,” says Richardson. “Like Ben Stokes, he bowls from little outside the line of scrimmage, giving the impression to the batter that the ball is on the way in. But when Josh is on, it stands up, swings away, and attacks from both sides. He can be quite a handful when he does that effectively.”

“He’s capable of moving up a notch”

When Tongue was 24, he was nearly forced to retire from cricket; when he’s 25, he’ll be playing on the international stage.

“Josh’s cricket has a lot of room to grow,” Weston remarked. He’s just starting to get back into bowling after a long layoff, and I think he’s capable of much more than he’s showing right now.

Despite his initial reluctance, Tongue has finally decided to stay at Lord’s, where both of his parents will be present.

“Phil was scheduled to be working with me on Thursday,” says Haynes of Tongue’s senior class. “The problem is that he’s had to call it quits due to a personal emergency. I had to bring in backup coaches. Knowing him, I figured he’d be like “I can’t let Gav down,” so I gave him a quick call to tell him, “You’re going to Lord’s!”

In fact, prior to Monday, Tongue Junior had never even visited the Home of Cricket. Now that he is a Test cricket player, he must learn to deal with its infamous slope.

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