Sam Billings is aiming to make his mark with England
The Nottinghamshire big-hitter broke his right hand attempting to take a catch in the second one-dayer against India in Cuttack 10 days ago and now has his right arm in a cast after flying home from the tour.
Billings, 25, impressed in the decisive one-dayer in Bangladesh in October, making his ODI fifty in an England win, and has also performed in his two opportunities on this tour.
He made a gutsy 35 in difficult conditions in the final one-dayer in Kolkata which England won, and a precocious 22 from 10 balls in Sunday’s first T20 win of the series in Kanpur.
And he has two more chances to deliver, starting with the second T20 against India in Nagpur tomorrow (Sun).
Hales’s absence gives Billings the chance to enhance his reputation from exciting T20 innovator with his range of quirky shots to the regular partner for the explosive Jason Roy in England’s 50-over team as well.
Skipper Eoin Morgan believes the T20 and 50-over games are almost the same now with similar players and skills being required for both formats.
Alex Hales will miss the series through injury
Billings said: “Before Bangladesh I hadn’t played an ODI for about a year and a half since my debut series so it’s nice to get a run of games and feel as though I can go out and express yourself without thinking, ‘I’ve only got one game here’.
“I keep telling myself to take it game by game but it’s hard not to think too far ahead. It shows the strength in depth in the squad at the moment, especially in the batting.”
Billings also fielded brilliantly – a side to his game that gives him an edge over Hales and a non-negotiable skill in the modern game.
He said: “As a team we price it so high because that could be the difference between us and a lot of sides around the world. There shouldn’t be a side that outfields us.
“I do pride myself on my fielding and I want to be one of the best fielders in the team, even though it’s pretty tough when you’ve got Stokes and Roy in there.”
The Kent man was named in a 14-man squad for the whistle-stop tour of the Caribbean in early March, which forms another vital step on the road for England towards the ICC Champions Trophy at home in June.
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It will be another pin on the map for the globe-trotting Billings who will have barely spent any time at home by the time he returns to Kent for the start of the English season.
He kicked off the winter in Bangladesh with England, played for the Sydney Sixers in Australia’s T20 Big Bash before joining England in India. From here he goes to the Pakistan Super League in the UAE, on to the West Indies with England then on to the money-spinning Indian Premier League in April.
England have backed the bowlers who took such punishment in the three-match one-day series in India. Both Morgan and coach Trevor Bayliss hinted that veteran quick Stuart Broad could resurrect his one-day career and there is still time for him to get into the Champions Trophy squad with early-season matches at home against Ireland and South Africa.
But chairman of selectors James Whitaker said: “We felt it was important to keep faith with the squad that competed during the recent tour of India. The current group of players are making excellent progress.”
One-day squad v West Indies:
E Morgan (capt), M Ali, J Bairstow, J Ball, S Billings, J Buttler (wk), L Dawson, L Plunkett, A Rashid, J Root, J Roy, B Stokes, D Willey, C Woakes. Fixtures: March 3 (Antigua), March 5 (Antigua) March 9 (Barbados).