England wicketkeeper-batsman Sam Billings is keen to cement his place in the national One Day International (ODI) set-up having got sporadic chances at the side after playing his career-best innings in the first ODI against Ireland on Thursday (July 30) in Southampton.
An injury to Kent team-mate Joe Denly awarded Billings a rare chance to prove his worth and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands by playing a brilliant knock of unbeaten 67 to help his team beat Ireland by six wickets in the first ODI of the three-match series in Southampton.
The 29-year-old missed a lot of cricket in 2019 due to a dislocated shoulder, which also hampered his hopes of breaking into England's victorious World Cup 2019 squad, but now he is eager to cement his place in the team.
However, Billings admitted that England's ODI team is one of the hardest teams to break into in, but he is determined to become a key member of his team’s middle-order after overcoming "a heavy speed bump" in his career as he felt his Southampton show guaranteeing him a spot in the XI for the next ODI.
Billings said ahead of the second ODI on Saturday (August 1), “In a nutshell, my career hit a heavy speed bump last year [with the injury] so for me, it's about building that momentum back up.”
He further added, “It's been very up down [with England], I suppose, over the last five years. I played five ODIs against New Zealand straight after the last World Cup in 2015 and then 10 since then and July 2018. The opportunities have been sporadic but England's ODI side is arguably one of the toughest sports teams to get into at the moment so all I can do is take my opportunities when they arise. This was an opportunity that came out of an unfortunate situation to one of my best mates (Joe Denly getting injured). That's a sport and I just had to prove what I can offer to this team.”
Billings, who made his international debut in 2015 but has only played 16 ODIs and 17 T20Is so far, admitted the middle-order role is a very tough one, but he wants to make his own after making some changes to his technique following an injury.
The right-hander further explained, “I have [done well in the middle order] consistently over the last five years - I think I have averaged over 50 batting at No 5 for Kent at a strike-rate of 120 so it's a role I enjoy. The middle-order role is a very tough one. You've got to be very adept, come in when you're three or four down early on and steady the ship similar to [Thursday] or in the last five overs and everyone expects you to get 40 off 10 balls. It's a pretty tough role, but one that I'm looking forward to making my own, really. Morgs [Eoin Morgan] has chucked the challenge out for all of us batsmen.”
Billings signed off by saying, “There are a ridiculous number of white-ball batsmen in the one-day set-up at the moment, and I just want to focus, keep working hard, and keep doing what I'm doing. I am very happy with where my game is at - I made a few technical tweaks after my injury and that has put me in a much better place for international cricket.”
(With Skysports Inputs)