England skipper Ben Stokes said that the decision to go with uncapped pacer Josh Tongue over Chris Woakes has to do with discovering more about him and called him an "X-Factor".
Woakes, the Warwickshire bowling all-rounder, looked all set to feature in England's one-off Test against Ireland at The Lord's from June 1, with his average of 61.20 with the bat and 11.33 with the ball at the venue adding a lot to England's weaponry as a team.
However, Tongue has made an impression during training, especially with his pace from a greater point of release. He will earn England's men's Test cap number 711 on Thursday after an impressive performance on the recent Lions tour of Sri Lanka.
Stokes feels that the 25-year-old quick is an "X Factor" player and wants to use the upcoming week to gauge if Tongue has what it takes to succeed at the highest level. Though Woakes has not played a Test since March 2022, sidelined due to knee injury, England did not feel the need to rush him back to action this week, especially with the Ashes coming against Australia from June 16.
"It was a hard decision to make. We know Woakesy is a very experienced player and what he will offer this team when he plays. We see this as a great opportunity to see someone like Josh Tongue go out and play in a Test. We might need someone like him throughout the summer," said Stokes as quoted by ESPNCricinfo.
"It gives me an opportunity to see what his character is like and what he is like to operate with as a captain. Woakesy completely understood that. We would plan too much because we do not know what will happen, but all the bowlers know they need to be prepared to play every game this summer. It is exciting we are able to see another pace bowler come through the ranks."
"Tonguey has been someone who has been spoken about even since he first came on and played for Worcestershire. He is someone who possesses a bit more pace than most of the guys who have been spoken about as the next guys in line and he has started off pretty well this year with Worcestershire as well."
"Having someone who is able to bowl with that extra pace so he can come on and change the way the game is going and have that 'X-factor', is always great to have in your side. I am looking forward to getting him involved and watching him get his Test cap tomorrow," concluded Stokes.
In 47 first-class matches, Tongue has taken 162 wickets at an average of 26.04 and an economy rate of 3.40. His best bowling figures in an innings are 6/97.
England playing XI against Ireland: Ben Duckett, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes (captain), Jonny Bairstow (wicketkeeper), Stuart Broad, Matthew Potts, Josh Tongue, Jack Leach
Ireland squad: Andrew Balbirnie (captain), Mark Adair, Curtis Campher, George Dockrell, Matthew Foster, Fionn Hand, Graham Hume, Tom Mayes, Andrew McBrine, James McCollum, PJ Moor, Paul Stirling, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Craig Young. (ANI)