Speaking after England’s emphatic six-wicket win over Ireland in the first ODI at the Ageas Bowl, Sky Sports Cricket commentator Rob Key discussed just how good Sam Billings, who made an unbeaten 67, could be.
Billings has been in and out of England’s white-ball sides ever since making his debut against New Zealand in 2015. Despite being a regular in squads, today was just his 16th ODI appearance. While he’s more experienced in T20I cricket, the right-hander is far from first choice in that format too.
“It’s all well and good going and playing in the IPL and all of that but actually what do you want to do, Sam Billings?” Key said. “Do you want to go and force your way in? Alright Jos Buttler’s there and this is not an easy team to get into, but if you want to go to the T20 World Cup then you have to keep on putting performances together.”
Key and Billings played together at Kent, where the former was captain and the latter is now skipper. Billings is yet to play a Test match, and only averages 34.70 in 68 first-class games so far. But he ended last season strongly, with three hundreds in his last three County Championship games. With incumbent England Test keeper Jos Buttler under pressure for his place, Billings could move himself up the pecking order with a strong campaign in the Bob Willis Trophy.
“Also the longer formats of the game,” said Key. “He had a great finish to the Championship season. He’s very rarely had a run in the team because he’s been playing for England or in the squad and not playing or in the IPL and not playing.
“Now its time [for Billings to decide], how good do you want to be? Could you go all the way? Whether that’s Test cricket as a keeper-batsman…. he’s certainly got the talent for it he’s always had that. How he needs to start scoring some runs as he has done here.
“Set your heights as high as you possibly can. I look at him and I think there’s no reason why he can’t be a Test cricketer as well.”
Key advised Billings to focus on his keeping in order to force his way in. “He’ll do that with the gloves I think. I’m not necessarily sure he’s going to get in there as a number four, no one’s going to get in there as a four, five or six past Root, Stokes and Pope, and then he’s looking at the top three which I don’t think he’s going to be.
“Could he be England’s wicketkeeper-batsman? Yes, but he’s going to have to start scoring a lot of runs. He’s no longer a youngster, he has to start using the talent and scoring the runs.”