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Ashes, 5th Test: Sam Billings Answers England’s Call With Trek Across Australia

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Sam Billings was on the Gold Coast and preparing to get on a plane back to Britain when he received a call. He was needed by England’s beleaguered Ashes team. Billings, an explosive white-ball cricketer, had been in Australia playing in the Twenty20 Big Bash League with Sydney Thunder. Now he might be in line to make his Test debut in the series-closing match in Hobart next week.

I was probably 90 minutes to two hours away from getting on that plane back to the U.K. It all happened pretty quickly, Billings said.

I went to the airport, got the rental car and cracked on, basically. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind.

With flights deemed too risky because of COVID-19, Billings first had to complete a 12-hour journey from the Gold Coast, followed by a strict quarantine and Testing process at England’s base in Sydney.

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It was from there, on a TV in his hotel room, that he followed the conclusion to the fourth Ashes Test which saw England hold out for a draw in a dramatic final few hours of the match.

With first-choice wicketkeeper Jos Buttler ruled out of the fifth Test because of a broken finger he will be flying home and a potential replacement for the gloves, Jonny Bairstow, carrying a thumb injury, Billings could go straight into the team.

Another alternative is Ollie Pope, who was a substitute wicketkeeper in Sydney because of Buttler’s injury and took four catches.

Billings has played more short-form cricket in the past few years, managing just four matches for Kent in last year’s County Championship. At 30, though, he has more than a decade of first-class experience under his belt and has been playing on Australian pitches recently.

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Regardless of the format, regardless of circumstances, with experience and maturity you can get a sense of where your game is at, he said. I’ve been playing and scoring runs. I’m 100% ready if required.

It doesn’t really matter what format it is, it’s more about rhythm, confidence and mindset. As a player you look where your opportunities may lie to progress your career…for me it has always been with the white-ball side so far. But this has been on the radar, it’s something I’ve really wanted to do.

Billings said he has received assurances that his emergency call-up will not affect his chances of featuring in England’s three-match Twenty20 series against the West Indies this month.

I had a few moments on my own in my hotel room and weighed it up, of course. I’ve done way too much running the drinks, he said.

I just need to play cricket. I wasn’t going to compromise that opportunity in the West Indies but of course I will always help and offer anything I can to the England team.

England is 3-0 down and has already lost the Ashes series.

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