Sam Billings has been increasingly impressive in ODI cricket for England


Sam Billings says he is not guaranteed a place in England’s limited-overs sides despite beginning England’s tour of South Africa with a breezy 52 in an intra-squad game.

"This is one of the hardest sports teams to get into in the world at the moment. The depth we’ve got – batting and bowling – is phenomenal," Billings said after sharing a century partnership with Joe Root as Jos Buttler’s team beat Eoin Morgan’s side in Cape Town.

"Anyone who rests on their laurels, there’s someone behind them wanting that position. That’s where the intensity comes from. Internal competition is fantastic for any team and squad."

After years on the fringes of the one-day international and T20 sides, Billings made a maiden ODI century against Australia and averaged 78.8 across the six ODIs. But his T20 returns were less impressive, and Billings’s place in the first T20I against South Africa on Friday is far from assured. He will hope to further his case in that back-to-back intra-squad T20s on Monday in Paarl.

"As an individual you just need to take the opportunities when you get them,” Billings said. "I did that in the summer and I’m looking forward to doing it again in the winter.”

Victory for Team Buttler 👏

Next we head to Paarl on Monday for two T20 warm-ups 🏏💥

— England Cricket (@englandcricket) November 21, 2020

The leading scorer in the match, Joe Root, is not in England’s T20I squad in South Africa, with England preferring more aggressive hitters and believing that players such as Morgan and Ben Stokes can anchor the innings if required. But Root’s run-a-ball 77, underpinning Team Buttler’s 255 all out in the 40-over game, provided another reminder of his limited-overs qualities. Root then took the wicket of Stokes with his off spin, and may yet be able to force his way back into the T20I squad as an all-rounder, with back-up spin to Adil Rashid viewed as England’s biggest weakness.

"In terms of reading a wicket there’s not many people better to have at the other end than Joe Root," Billings said. "The T20s might not be 200 plays 200 every single game. The guys who adapt quickest have the most success."

Other notable contributions in the match included Tom Curran’s four for 25 for Team Morgan, while Mark Wood snared three wickets from his seven overs. Chris Woakes hit 55 in the failed run chase as Jofra Archer continued his form from the Indian Premier League – when he was named player of the tournament – to take one for 11 from four miserly overs. 

Despite two positive Covid-19 tests in South Africa’s squad, Billings said that England – who are sharing the same hotel as South Africa – are not concerned about the series going ahead.

"We’re aware of what we need to do as players and what responsibilities we have," he said. "That’s all we can do. I’m not really worried. We’re very clear on what we are doing. The responsibility is on all of us to look after each other and do what we need to do."