Sam Billings has described England’s white-ball set-up as among the “hardest sports teams to get into in the world” after making an encouraging start to his South Africa tour by striking a 43-ball half-century in the opening intra-squad warm-up match in Cape Town.
Billings has been an irregular starter in England’s ODI and T20I sides over the last five years, but scored his maiden international hundred against Australia in September. He has already targeted a potential opening for himself as a finisher ahead of England’s T20 World Cup campaign and will hope to press his case in South Africa.
“This is one of the hardest sports teams to get into in the world at the moment,” he told the Press Association. “The depth we’ve got – batting and bowling – is phenomenal.
“As an individual you just need to take the opportunities when you get them. It’s a seriously good side to get into. You’ve got to keep moving forward as individuals and as a team, to get better and better.
“I did that in the summer and I’m looking forward to doing it again in the winter. That’s all you can do really. 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.”
Billings played in four of England’s six T20Is over the summer but knows competition for places in the batting order is strong, with Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Dawid Malan and Ben Stokes all vying for selection alongside the captain, Eoin Morgan.
That depth means there is still no room for Joe Root, who top-scored at Newlands, to push his T20 case. Root made 77 off as many balls while putting on a century stand alongside Billings, but he will be left as an onlooker during the T20I series, which starts on Friday, despite his ambitions to be involved at the World Cup.
“In terms of reading a wicket there’s not many people better to have at the other end than Joe Root,” Billings said.
“It’s always great to bat with someone like that, who thinks about the game, thinks about conditions. To go at a run-a-ball for 70-odd shows what a thinking cricketer he is and the ability to execute that as well is a pretty good skill to have.
“The T20s might not be 200 plays 200 every single game. The guys who adapt quickest have the most success.”
Recent Match Report – Colombo Kings vs Galle Gladiators 4th Match 2020
Colombo Kings 96 for 1 (Russell 65*) beat Galle Gladiators 62 for 2 by 34 runs
How the game played out
With this innings, Andre Russell basically crash-landed at the LPL like an alien from a way bigger-hitting planet than earth, clobbering what seemed like nine dozen sixes (apparently four sixes, according to the scorecard) and half-a-million fours (nine fours) in the space of five overs, to send Colombo Kings sky-rocketing to some ludicrous total that – let’s be honest – Galle Gladiators never really had a hope of chasing down.
This was utterly remorseless from Russell, who was like a 12-foot giant running wild in a playpen full of toddlers. He blasted two sixes and three fours in Mohammad Amir’s first over, at the end of which Kings were 26 for no loss, before hitting a six and three fours off the next over, bowled by Asitha Fernando.
RECORDS: Fastest T20 fifties
It didn’t seem to matter where the bowlers went, or whether they seemed to execute their deliveries or not. Around every corner was Russell, bat raised and a glint in his eye. Of the Gladiators’ four bowlers, only Mohammad Shiraz did not concede a six to Russell.
Laurie Evans was outstanding at the other end too, hitting back-to-back sixes off Amir’s second over (Amir ended up conceding 46 from his two overs), and a four off Shiraz. He was 21 off 10 balls when in the last over, Russell clubbed Shahid Afridi to long-on, before turning down the single so he could keep the strike for the rest of the over.
The rain had reduced Colombo’s innings to just five overs
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) November 28, 2020
On the surface, this seems disrespectful to Evans, and it kind of was. But then Russell crashed a four through long-on next ball, and a six over backward square leg the ball after. So, you know, you couldn’t really fault that decision either.
That the match had been shortened to five overs a side was down to the three hours of rain that had fallen this evening. The weather conspired to bring Russell out as an opener, and in some ways, this innings was more entertaining than many regular T20 matches.
Star of the day
Obviously Andre Russell.
The big miss
The other four teams, who failed to secure the services of Andre Russell for this tournament.
SA vs Eng, 2nd T20I
Tom Curran‘s bowling figures – 1 for 55 in four overs – in Friday night’s game against South Africa were the sixth-most expensive in England’s T20I history. But at least none of the five men above him in that list had to walk off alongside their grinning brother after he had taken three cheap wickets.
“Tom’s very competitive and is a relaxed guy, so he’ll move on pretty quickly,” Sam said after England’s five-wicket win. “T20 is a very strange game. You can bowl well and still get hit for a lot of runs, and you can bowl badly and get loads of wickets.”
But in truth, Sam bowled well, and Tom bowled poorly. While Sam managed to disguise his variations, change his lengths and nail a hard length, Tom was taken to pieces in his second over by Faf du Plessis and ended up leaking 24 runs as he strayed into the slot.
The upshot is that if England decide to inject Mark Wood‘s pace in Sunday’s game at Paarl, it is likely to be Tom rather than Sam that makes way. If that seems unsurprising, it is evidence of the effect that the IPL has had on Sam’s reputation as a T20 player: Friday night was only his sixth T20I appearance and his first in over a year.
It is quite a reversal. While Sam’s first exposure to professional cricket was in Surrey’s T20 Blast side, he has generally been considered to be the slightly better red-ball cricketer, while Tom was ahead of him in the white-ball pecking order. Now, Tom has not played a first-class game since April 2019, and is arguably a less attractive proposition in limited-overs cricket, too.
That is not to say that he has undergone any major decline. Eoin Morgan, England’s white-ball captain, evidently has faith in him, deciding to give him two powerplay overs and continuing to back him at the death even after du Plessis’ onslaught.
It is worth noting, too, that he spent much of the IPL sitting on the Rajasthan Royals bench, so was not match-fresh in the way most of his team-mates were. He will return to the Big Bash League with Sydney Sixers after this tour, for whom he has played some of his best cricket, and is likely to remain very much in the England reckoning.
In contrast, Sam – in recognition of his lengthy stints in the biosecure bubbles this summer – will return home after the T20I leg of this tour is complete. That speaks volumes of the strides he has made and his importance to the England set-up across formats. He received glowing reviews during his time at the IPL with the Chennai Super Kings – captain MS Dhoni labelled him “a complete cricketer” – and said that he had taken his game to “a different standard” at the tournament.
While his bowling caught the eye in Friday’s series opener, Sam’s three-ball innings with the bat was just as entertaining. After being hit on the grille by a Lungi Ngidi bouncer, the first ball he faced, he lined up Kagiso Rabada to smite his second for six over long-on – evidence, perhaps, of his mischievous streak.
That Sam has caught up with Tom so quickly should not come as a surprise: tennis fans, for example, will note the relative successes of the Williams and Murray siblings (in both families, the younger sibling is the superstar). There is a sociological explanation for ‘the sibling effect’, in which younger siblings enjoy more success than their older siblings, rooted in their early exposure to regular sport, the need to keep up, and psychological rivalry. As Tim Wigmore and Mark Williams write in their book The Best: How Elite Athletes are Made: “If you have a younger sibling, they are probably better at sport than you are.”
That seems to fit in the example of the Currans: Sam’s emergence as a T20 allrounder puts his brother’s England place in jeopardy. When Jofra Archer has been unavailable through injury or rest, Morgan has backed Tom Curran and Chris Jordan as their death-overs specialists, but Archer’s presence in this series means both seamers need to prove their versatility.
With Wood – or Reece Topley, the tall left-armer who last played a T20I in the 2016 T20 World Cup – in contention as England look for extra pace with the new ball, there may well be room for only one Curran in this side. Sam’s advantage with the bat and his new-found ability to bowl in all three phases of an innings means that Tom finds himself looking over his shoulder.
Bangabandhu T20 Cup – Mustafizur Rahman runs through Khulna to make it two in two for Chattogram
Gazi Group Chattogram (Liton 53*, Soumya 26) beat Gemcon Khulna 86 (Kayes 21, Mustafizur 4-5, Nahidul 2-15) by nine wickets
Gazi Group Chattogram bowled out a side for a double-digit total for the second game in a row in the Bangabandhu T20 Cup, trouncing Gemcon Khulna by nine wickets and reaching their 87-run target in just 13.4 overs. The win took Chattogram to the top of the points table, equal with Rajshahi who have also won two out of two.
Mustafizur Rahman finished with incredible figures of 4 for 5 from 3.5 overs as Khulna’s lower order collapsed; their last five wickets falling for 13 runs in 29 balls. The left-arm quick snuffed out any chance of a late resistance after deceiving Shamim Hossain with a slower ball, and getting Ariful Haque caught at deep square-leg.
Chattogram’s performance was very similar to how they had brushed aside Beximco Dhaka in their previous game, beating them with 55 balls to spare.
The groundwork was laid by offspinner Nahidul Islam who dismissed Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah in the fifth over; Shakib mistimed one to mid-on while Mahmudullah was given out lbw. For the third game in a row, Khulna’s two most experienced batsmen fell cheaply, while Jahurul Islam and Imrul Kayes also failed to make a decent contribution.
Mustafizur finished off the innings with his four-wicket haul, while Nahidul and left-arm spinner Taijul Islam took two wickets each.
As they had done against Dhaka on Thursday, Chattogram openers Soumya Sarkar and Liton Das blazed to a half-century stand, but this time at a slightly slower pace.
Soumya fell in the 11th over, having made 26 off 29 balls, with four boundaries, and Liton saw the chase through, finishing unbeaten on 53 off 46 balls with nine fours.
Fortune Barishal 136 for 5 (Tamim 77*, Emon 23, Mukidul 2-27) beat Minister Rajshahi 132 for 9 (Mahedi 34, Mahmud 31, Rabbi 4-21) by five wickets
Tamim Iqbal got Fortune Barishal their first win, and handed Minister Rajshahi their first defeat, with an unbeaten 77, his first half-century of the tournament. Barishal’s five-wicket win was a bounce back from their final-over blowout against Gemcon Khulna last week.
Tamim added 61 for the second wicket with Parvez Hossain Emon and another 46 with Towhid Hridoy for the third wicket. He struck ten fours and two sixes in his 61-ball knock as he ensured Barishal won with an over to spare.
Earlier, Rajshahi squandered a steady start by their openers, Anisul Islam Emon and captain Najmul Hossain Shanto, after they slipped from 61 for 2 to 63 for 5 in the space of eight deliveries. Mohammad Ashraful was run out before Emon and Nurul Hasan holed out in the deep square-leg boundary. They were brought back into the game with a 65-run stand between Mahedi Hasan and Fazle Mahmud. Mahedi struck three sixes in his 23-ball 34, and looked in great nick; Mahmud supported him with 31.
Kamrul Islam Rabbi took four wickets while Mehidy Hasan Miraz took 2 for 18.
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Recent Match Report – Colombo Kings vs Galle Gladiators 4th Match 2020
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