Thunders’ Billings ready for test debut

After several weeks of shining for Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash, Sam Billings expected to travel to the Caribbean via London to play white ball cricket for England.

Instead, he was told to head south after Thunder’s victory over Perth Scorchers at the Gold Coast on Thursday and respond to an SOS from the England test team.

With wicket keeper Jos Buttler ruled out of the series final next week in Hobart due to a broken finger and Jonny Bairstow also suffering a thumb injury, Billings looks set to pick up the gloves and go straight from the circuit Twenty20 at the test arena.

With flights deemed too risky given the growing number of Covid-19 cases in Australia, he first had to make a 12-hour trip from the Gold Coast. En route he tweeted “Just one observation … Australia really is a great country!”

This was followed by a strict quarantine and testing process at the English base in Sydney, meaning he followed the biting conclusion of England’s fourth draw on his hotel TV.

“It was a bit of a roller coaster ride. I was probably 90 minutes to two hours away from catching that plane back to the UK. It all happened pretty quickly,” he said.

“I went to the airport, got the rental car and basically broke. It was a bit of a whirlwind. For the first 24 hours, I hadn’t heard or seen anything, I’m sure I’ll find out later this week if I play.

“I’m really looking forward to it. Like any team I’m going to, I’ll try to have a positive impact on and off the pitch, and add to any environment I’m placed in. We’ll have to wait. and see if this test cap comes. “

Ollie Pope’s strong performance as a backup goalie at SCG – he took four catches after being pushed into the short-term role – means Billings isn’t guaranteed a game on Thursday, but if he gets the green light, the Kent player will not be discouraged.

He has played more short form cricket in recent years, having managed just four outings for Kent in last year’s LV = Insurance County Championship – but at the age of 30 he has more a decade of first-class experience under its belt.

Add in 58 limited internationals and his recent work on BBL’s Australian pitches and he feels capable of a smooth transition to the five-day match.

“Whatever the format, whatever the circumstances, with experience and maturity you can get a feel for where your game is,” he said.

“I played and scored points. I’m 100% ready if needed. Format doesn’t really matter, it’s more about pace, confidence and state of mind. as a player you look at where your opportunities are, advancing your career … for me it has always been on the white ball side until now.

“But it got on the radar, it’s something I really wanted to do.”

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