Opportunity knocks: Billings keen to excel in Friends LIfe t20 campaign

Friday 8th June 2012

Men’s First Team

Opportunity knocks: Billings keen to excel in Friends LIfe t20 campaign

When the Sky television cameras came to the St Lawrence Ground last Friday it offered the chance for Kent’s talented, young cricketers to shine and they did just that. The Spitfires ran out ten-wicket victors and batsman Sam Billings was the name on everyone’s lips after the rout.

The opener lit up a gloomy, rain affected encounter against Warwickshire, at Canterbury, scoring an unbeaten 58; a knock that included a glittering array of strokes. A couple of back-foot drives through cover left the Sky Sports pundits purring and Sam was understandably delighted with his efforts.

How special was it playing a starring role in the win over Warwickshire?

Without sounding too cliché, it definitely was a dream come true to hit the winning runs. It was always an aim of mine and is certainly a performance to build upon. I’ve got a go in the CB40 so it was good to make a winning contribution in that competition.

How pleased are you with your game at the moment?

I’m pretty happy with the way things are going. You can never score too many runs and I would’ve liked a few more scores but I’m feeling in good touch, so long may it continue.

Kent have only lost one game in all competitions this season and every member of the playing squad is champing at the bit to play their part in a winning team. Sam, who is understudy to wicketkeeper Geraint Jones, is only twenty and destined to play a starring role for the county in the years to come. However, despite his tender years, he is very eager to make an instant impression during the 2012 campaign.

What are your aims for the season?

Overall, it would be to establish myself within the side – in all forms of the game. I would like to get a go in the t20 side at the top. It would also be lovely to score enough runs in the second team to get into the first team in the championship side too. I know I haven’t done enough to force my case as yet but if I keep doing well then I can hopefully get a go. It’s for the good of Kent Cricket to have some healthy competition for Geraint and it is good if the both of us are doing well.

Head coach Jimmy Adams has found a useful blend between youth and experience in the Kent side, during his first season in charge. Despite an influx of summer signings, young players are still being given a chance to play their part. Sam, who has progressed through the successful Kent pathway, believes having the older heads around can only help him and his peers bed in to the first-team environment.

The team has a lot more experience this season. Has it helped you, having some more experienced heads to talk to?

Yes, it is always good to have an experienced head to talk to; even last year, when I played a few games, people like Keysy (Rob Key), Azhar, Stevo (Darren Stevens) and Jonesy (Geraint Jones) were good people to discuss things with and were happy to help you out. This year, the new additions have helped us again and there is a really good balance now – especially in the CB40. We have some youngsters, people like me, Sam Northeast and Matt Coles surrounded by a load of the older guys. It gives a real fresh look and people are all helping each other out. The older guys seem to like the fact that the youngsters are pushing them so I guess it works both ways.

Last season Sam was given a run in the CB40 side – a spot which he hasn’t given up. Once again, the dashing right-hander is opening the innings alongside captain Rob Key in this season’s competition. However, with 'keeping still an important string to his bow, Sam is looking to improve all areas of his game with the hope of breaking into the championship side. He knows an avalanche of second XI runs will, naturally, help his cause.

You have got a regular go in the CB40 side this season. Have you enjoyed it?

I have absolutely loved it. It is a great opportunity and one that I am very keen to extend.

How pleased have you been with the start to the season?

Over the winter, and during pre-season, I concentrated on my batting but then wasn’t too happy with my keeping so I have worked hard on that in recent weeks. I’ve kept well in the last couple of weeks and am feeling really good; both with bat and gloves. I played lots of cricket early season and got a couple of scores for Loughborough. I got a hundred on our home ground, against Oxford, and know that I know need to score lots of runs for the second team. I’ve done well in certain situations but I haven’t shown the needed consistency.

Former West Indies captain Adams has impressed during his first season in charge at a county Club. His coaching skills and enthusiastic demeanour have created a positive playing environment for a new Kent side to shine. It is a dressing room that Loughborough University student Sam is thriving being a part of, and he credits the coach for that.

How are you finding the Jimmy Adams influence?

Very simply, brilliant. There is a completely new atmosphere within the dressing room and I’ve found Jimmy a real breath of fresh air. He has really helped me out and I know that all the boys would share with me in that opinion. He is very good with man management skills and knows when to have a word. He is great within the dressing room and he has helped me technically with a couple of things. I guess there was a real clean slate, as he hadn’t seen many of us, and we have all profited from his involvement.

The razzmatazz of the Friends Life t20 begins next week with the Spitfires starting their campaign against Sussex Sharks at Tunbridge Wells. With Joe Denly departing in the summer there is a space at the top of the innings for someone to fill. Sam, together with fellow young talent Daniel Bell-Drummond, are both being touted to fill the role, and for the diminutive batsman a chance to play in front of big crowds is something he would relish.

Are you hoping to feature in the Friends Life t20 side?

Yes, I hope so. It is such a great format and I pretty much played as a fielder last year! However, it was still a great experience, being around the guys – having that opportunity to play in front of bigger crowds and all the energy. I now hope to feature in the t20 and perform in that competition too.

Photo: Sarah Ansell SarahCanterbury.com