Can Worcestershire keep Tongue tied down?

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Josh Tongue is the first Worcestershire player to be called up for a Test match since Moeen Ali

Josh Tongue was quick to acknowledge Worcestershire for helping him earn his maiden England Test cap against Ireland at Lord’s this week, but it is unclear if he will still be employed by the county in 2024.

Since Moeen Ali‘s Test debut in 2014, Tongue is the first Worcestershire player to play for England in a men’s match. On Tuesday, Tongue remarked that his Test debut would be “a massive thing” for the team. He continued, “Many Worcester alumni have had a positive impact on my career.”

However, Josh Tongue is one of several Worcestershire players whose contracts with the team are up this year, and June 1, the day of his debut, also marks the day on which county cricketers whose contracts expire at the conclusion of a season are allowed to speak to other clubs.

The loss of either player would be a major setback for Worcestershire as the 22-year-old hitter Jack Haynes’ contract expires this season. Haynes and Tongue, both of whom attended the club’s academy, took part in the England Lions’ trip to Sri Lanka earlier this year.

On the field, Worcestershire has had a successful start to the 2023 season. With three victories so far in the T20 Blast, they are currently joint-third in Division Two of the County Championship with two wins out of six.

They are in a state of chaos, though, off it. The club reported a loss of little over £200,000 each year for 2022, and their financial stability is dependent on ECB payouts, which make up about 60% of their annual income.

Paul Pridgeon, who serves as the leader of the club’s “cricket steering group,” a volunteer post, is responsible for negotiating contracts with players and their agents despite the club’s announcement that it intended to recruit a director of cricket in July 2022.

In addition to Pat Brown, Ben Cox, Dillon Pennington, and Mitchell Stanley, several other Worcestershire players will have their current contracts expire at the conclusion of this year. The recent departures of Moeen and Ed Barnard, who both joined Warwickshire last winter, are already a loss for them.

A few players who have recently been a part of England teams are not under contract elsewhere. While Dan Lawrence, who was today removed from the England Test squad for T20 Blast duty, is in the final year of his contract with Essex, and Jordan Cox is in a similar scenario at Kent, their contracts with Gloucestershire expire at the end of the year.

Matt Parkinson, who made his Test debut one year ago this week, left Lancashire’s Championship team earlier this year and is now in the last year of his contract. He is now free to consult with other counties as he considers his options.

Parkinson played one game on loan for Durham earlier this year, but after relying heavily on foreign spinners in the Championship this season, it is believed that his twin brother Callum has been lined up as their major target for spin bowling.

The start of the county cricket “transfer window” comes at a time when player contracts are being discussed. Recently, cricket directors called for a “urgent” review of the standard 12-month contract due to the abundance of English players participating in franchise tournaments around the world.