Unexpected test debut like a ‘free hit’, says England’s Billings

England wicketkeeper-batsman Sam Billings said on Saturday that his test debut at Hobart against Australia was like a "free hit" after being drafted in as a late replacement for the injured Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow ahead of the fifth match.

Billings, who looked fluent during his brief knock of 29 on Saturday, had been set to leave Australia after a spell with the Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League Twenty20 competition before being included in the England squad as emergency cover.

"I felt able to enjoy it a lot more than some previous times I've played for England when I've felt under so much pressure to perform or to take an opportunity," the 30-year-old said after the second day's play.

"In the past… (I've wondered) if I'll be picked for the next game or squad. This was a free hit and a great opportunity to make a statement."

Billings has been part of England's white-ball setup since 2015 but has had little opportunity to play in the longest format. He was twice named in the test squad last summer but failed to make his debut.

"My one-day debut at the age of 24-25 was all a blur and I didn't really soak that up. Often as cricketers we don't appreciate things until it's far gone, so I have loved every minute out there," Billings added.

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"It's a great challenge against the best seam attack in the world, but it's far better than sitting on the sofa at home watching it."

Australia, who lead the five-match Ashes series 3-0, finished the day on 37-3 in their second innings after bowling England out for 188, giving them a lead of 152 runs.

(Reporting by Dhruv Munjal in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Artmotion Asia

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