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Billings happy with England glove story

© AFP/File / by Julian GUYER | Sam Billings during the One Day International match between England and West Indies at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in St. John's, Antigua, on March 3, 2017


Sam Billings will hope an off-season of globetrotting round the world's top Twenty20 leagues pays dividends when he plays for England against Ireland in this week's two-match one-day international series against Ireland.

Billings will be deployed as a wicket-keeper by England even though Test gloveman Jonny Bairstow is in their squad for the Ireland matches, which start with Friday's clash in Bristol.

It will be the first time Billings has been behind the stumps for eight months but the 25-year-old is confident he can pick up where he left off with county side Kent.

Billings and England one-day captain Eoin Morgan have both returned from stints in the Indian Premier League while the likes of the team's regular one-day keeper Jos Buttler and all-rounders Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes have remained with their franchises.

However, the absent trio will all be back for England's tilt at the Champions Trophy on home soil next month.

England have never won a major global 50-over trophy but Billings said what he had heard of the field in between some useful contributions for the Delhi Daredevils suggested the rest of the world now regarded them as a major threat following a shambolic showing at the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

- 'Petrified' -

"Previously in this country, we haven't made one-day cricket a priority as such -- but now people are petrified of our side, and you only find that out by talking to them," Billings told reporters in Bristol on Thursday.

"There's a buzz around the reputation of the England team in white-ball cricket -- it's amazing to think about that transition from two years ago.

"Stokes gets a hundred, three man-of-the-match awards -- everyone knows what he can do -- and then there's Woakes, Buttler.

"It's kind of gone full circle -- people now thinking 'they have a seriously good squad'.

"The competition for (England) places is phenomenal."

Billings meanwhile is in no doubt he has become a better player as a result of his limited overs travels.

"It's been a fantastic opportunity to play in probably the best league in the world in terms of a franchise tournament -- it's high intensity every game.

"From the Big Bash (in Australia), to (England's limited-overs series in) India, to the Pakistan Super League and the IPL -- so it has been a lot of cricket.

"But no doubt my game has moved forward."

Billings, however, has been deployed as a specialist batsman in all of those tournaments.

"I think the last time I kept wicket in a game was September for Kent (against Essex in the County Championship), so it's been while.

"But I'm looking forward to the challenge, and I've also got the added benefit that I've kept since the age of 10 -- I'm a natural wicketkeeper as such.

"I have the years banked with the wicket-keeping and I hope it's like a duck to water.

"I've been practising."

Dublin-born Morgan for one had no qualms about handing Billings the gloves for both Friday's match and Sunday's clash at Lord's.

"These two games are an opportunity to have a look at Sam, in a very similar position to where Jos would play, and he's more than capable of filling that position," said the captain.

Turning to Bairstow's reaction, Morgan said: "He understands the position he's in.

"It's completely different to his Test position, where he's the number one wicket-keeper.

"The dynamics of our one-day team are always changing, and might need to change in the lead-up to the World Cup -- so having an understanding and acceptance of it is part of the game."

by Julian GUYER

© 2017 AFP