Sam Billings is racking up the miles to prepare for expected England Test debut | Ashes 2021-22


ginterim head coach raham Thorpe described the England dressing room as a * M * A * S * H ​​* scene during the dramatic Sydney Test. And in the end, after two old workhorses of Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad held on, one of the injured had to be airlifted from that grueling Ashes campaign.

Vital following a deadly battle, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow flew with the team to Hobart in hopes of gritting their teeth until Friday’s fifth test with side and thumb issues respective. Mark Wood treats the bruised toes of Pat Cummins’ Yorker who knocked him down. But Jos Buttler’s broken finger – collateral damage from a Wood missile that stayed low – was bad enough to end his tour of duty.

Bairstow is technically the spare wicket keeper, but the cracked thumb tip he suffered in the first of two belligerent scores of 113 and 41 precludes taking the gloves back. And although Ollie Pope surpassed expectations as a replacement for Buttler behind the stumps, a frontline replacement has been wanted by a 3-0 lagging England side.

Enter Sam Billings, fresh out of the Big Bash League and having answered a call 90 minutes before his scheduled flight to Team T20’s upcoming Caribbean tour. Assurances it could still feature against the West Indies – even if the first T20i in Barbados on January 22 arrives too early – have been sought by a perennial beverage carrier and now a 10-hour rental car trip to the coast est, plus the isolation of the hotel team, should be rewarded with an unexpected debut in testing and become the English cap No. 700.

“I am 100% ready if needed, and will give absolutely everything I can,” Billings said. “I played cricket regularly and scored points. The format doesn’t really matter, it’s more about pace, confidence and state of mind. Like any team I’m going to, I’ll try to have a positive impact on and off the pitch, in whatever environment I’m placed in.

“The three guys who came out to hit Sydney with injuries, that’s incredible courage, and that’s exactly what everyone involved in English cricket is playing – playing for each other and that resilience. There’s a lot of inspiration that we can take from that as a group, that character and that attitude on my dead body. “

Billings, 30, is an interesting case study during the current existential crisis in English cricket. A popular marginal player and still willing in the well-stocked white ball setup – winning 58 ODI and T20 caps out of 175 possible since his debut in 2015 – he is part of a generation outside the central contract roster that has come down felt encouraged to pursue T20 globetrotting careers. When picked up by the Indian Premier League in particular, it straddles big chunks of the red ball summer.

Sam Billings beat Henry Hunt of the Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash League last week, where the Englishman plays for the Sydney Thunder. Photography: Mick Tsikas / AAP

“It’s tough,” Billings said. “I think the contract situation is still controversial. As non-contractual [England] player, you have to maximize the opportunities because you do not have the possibility of being chosen in the next [national] team. I only have one career, say five to seven years of playing cricket. [T20] was a way for me to play cricket. There is no right or wrong with any of this. This hampered, I guess, my chances of playing four day cricket and ultimately testing cricket.

The 10 first-class games Billings has played for Kent since a shoulder injury caused him to miss the 2019 World Cup squad has netted a batting average of 44.48 and three centuries. With orthodox technique, hits against the higher pace of international attacks, and strong gloves in all formats, this indicates a player who in another era could have claimed a bigger case than just being in. the same country.

His closest shot with a test cap came this summer when he was notably the only IPL returnee to come out of quarantine and act as a reserve wicket keeper for James Bracey in the 1-0 loss to New York. -Zeeland. Although his career differs from that of Sydney Thunder teammate Usman Khawaja, Billings is inspired by the ‘nothing to lose’ attitude that saw the Aussie seize his chance with centuries of sparkling twins at SCG during what was. supposed to be one. -excluding recall.

Billings said: “I thought he was speaking incredibly well in terms of having that perspective, of having that mind really open to the potential of what was ahead of him and taking his opportunities. I’m really in my position. own game. I have made some technical changes over the last few years that I think have really improved my overall game regardless of the format, so I’m ready to go if needed. of importance, it’s more a question of pace, confidence and state of mind.

Billings have arrived from the Covid-stricken BBL but, knock on wood, has so far not contracted the virus itself since the last English summer. He and Saqib Mahmood, another Caribbean-linked white ball player, have bubbled up and demanded separate dressing rooms from their Thunder teammates over the past fortnight to reduce the risk of transmission – with at least four cases in the squad to this day it sounds nifty to call.

If chosen, Billings would be a fifth tryout wicket keeper for England in the space of 12 months – the sixth if you count Pope’s replacement role – and defeats the purpose Chris Silverwood’s declared not to want to debut in Australia. As the Ashes battlefield has taught England’s head coach, who joins the camp after recovering from Covid-19, plans – better laid out or not – can go wrong.

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