Josh Dungu marvels at 'surreal’ career path from shoulder injury to Ashes

From coaching badges to Steve Smith bunny memes, Seamer reflects on how far he’s come

Matte Roller

Josh Dungu celebrates the wicket of Steven Smith PA images via Getty Images

Josh Dungu would have spent the summer of 2023 training but for a specialist to diagnose a nerve problem in his shoulder last year. Instead, he made his England debut and was sent off to play in the Ashes Test Memes depicting Steven Smith as his bunny.

„I don’t think it’s really sunk in at this minute,” said Naku. „Being out with my shoulder for so long, having two operations, not knowing what I was going to do, retiring, then getting the call-up for the Ireland Test, words can’t describe how I felt. Now, to be in the Ashes squad, it feels so surreal.”

Naku would have qualified as a Level 2 coach early in his career had the shoulder problem that kept him sidelined for 14 months from June 2021 to August 2022 not resolved.

„I would have gone to practice,” he said. „I would have kept doing my badges.” He suggested he would have tapped into „some contacts” at his old school, King’s Worcester, or worked with former Worcestershire batsman Gavin Haines, whose son Jack played alongside Dungu for County and the England Lions.

„It’s a bit different: coaching or playing for England in the Ashes. It’s very different. I don’t think it’s really sunk in at the moment. It’s just crazy: where I was two years ago now. Obviously as a kid, I dreamed of playing in the Ashes. Now I’m in an amazing feeling.”

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James Anderson and Stuart Broad bowled tongue-in-cheek; Now, he replaces one of them in the fifth Test starting on Thursday at Kia Oval. Speaking ahead of the fourth Test at a #Funds4Runs session organized by LV= Insurance at Stockport Georgians Cricket Club, he said: „It’s amazing to be involved in training, to train with them and learn from them.

„The first couple of weeks on the team, I was just trying to find my feet and not ask a lot of questions as the new kid on the block. Now I feel like I’m getting to know everybody, and with a little trust in everybody on the team, I can ask those questions.

„It’s different when you’re in the tournament. There’s not a lot of training between each Test, so I try to take as much as I can from it. Being on the pitch with Jimmy and Brady at Lord’s, they’re mid-on and mid-off, [I tried to] Tap into anything they have to offer.”

Josh Dungu at the #Funds4Runs session at Stockport Georgians Cricket Club LV= Insurance/#Funds4Runs

Dungu finished with 151 for 5 in the Lord’s Test, hitting long bouncers on day four and dismissing David Warner and Steven Smith in both innings. „I never thought I’d be playing at Lord’s and that first day, when I came through the long room and heard the national anthem, I thought, 'Wow! I’m actually playing in the Ashes’.”

Dungu dismissed Smith in three third innings this summer after earlier trapping him lbw in the county championship game. „I saw a picture of him in a corner, me, and then a rabbit – something like that,” he laughed. “I’ve seen some funny things on Twitter.

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„The guy at Worcester, I did a bit of analyst work against him and tried to mix up the angles. He pulls you off the stumps. I tried not to play to his strengths, when you try to bowl straight, he clips you through the leg side.

“I try to bowl the fourth or fifth stump and bore him and force him to do something wrong. [is the way to go] And apparently that happened in the first innings. Then, secondly, he was expelled. It is very good to bowl against him.

Tongue usually throws in the mid-80s mph, but has hit 90mph/145km/h at times this summer, and it’s been refreshing to see his speed on the big screens. „I tried not to look too much, but you look natural sometimes and it was great to get that momentum going,” he said.

„It’s a good feeling. Growing up as a kid, you want to bowl as fast as you can, so to hit 90mph is a nice little achievement. I’m a big rhythm bowler: when I bowl at my best, I don’t try too hard. My skills, my height, my bounce, pace…

He has only played at the Oval once before in a high-scoring draw in 2018, but fresh from a five-wicket haul in Worcestershire’s win over Leicestershire, Dungu believes he can make an impact there if selected this week. „Being at Lord’s, knowing that I bowled well there, I’ll take confidence from playing at The Oval.”

Josh Dungu speaks on behalf of LV= Insurance, the title sponsors of this summer’s LV= Insurance Ashes series. Visit https://www.lv.com/gi/cricket to know more

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Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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