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Sam Billings hits career-best 175 as England Lions clinch series

Sunday 24th July 2016


Sam Billings treated his home crowd to a spectacular century for England Lions as they wrapped up the Tri-Series with a 56-run victory over Pakistan A in Canterbury.

The Kent wicketkeeper-batsman hit a career-best 175 from 139 balls with 21 fours and two sixes, an innings that was all the more impressive and important after the Lions had been reduced to 49 for four by Bilawal Bhatti’s excellent new-ball spell.

Click here to buy tickets to Monday's Lions match and Canterbury Cricket Week

They ended up posting 324 for eight, and despite a fine century in reply from Pakistan’s opener Jaahid Ali, three more wickets for Mark Wood ensured the Lions would maintain their 100% record and seal the series before their last game against Sri Lanka A on Monday, also at the Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence.

The 25-year-old Kent Cricket Academy graduate said: "It was great to tie up the series against two very competitive sides. To contribute is a bonus, and I’m really happy to do it at my home ground.

"It’s all about trying to put performances in when it matters, to really show the selectors you have the ability when push comes to shove to soak up the pressure and deliver.
"For the older guys in the squad like myself, we’ve got to dominate this cricket, and really put performances in the hat.
"It was a good crowd for a Lions game, and nice to walk out to bat and get a decent cheer from a home crowd, that does make a difference and make you feel good.
"It’s a special place, a different feel from the other grounds around the country. I’ve been at the club since I was 7, so to get my first Lions 100 here was really nice."

Billings’s innings meant three of the top four List A scores for the Lions or the England A team that preceded them have been recorded in consecutive matches, following Ben Duckett’s unbeaten 163 in the previous match against Pakistan A in Cheltenham last Tuesday, and Dawid Malan’s new record of 185 not out against Sri Lanka A in Northampton on Thursday.

Lancashire’s Liam Livingstone provided excellent support in a restorative fifth-wicket partnership of 135 in only 20 overs, cracking 64 from 60 balls with five fours and two sixes into the building site on one side of the ground.

But the local hero continued to entertain an appreciative crowd until he was finally dismissed in the last over of the Lions innings, playing a range of increasingly audacious shots – with one of his sixes pulled over mid wicket from a left-handed stance.

Tom Curran opened the bowling for the Lions with his younger brother Sam, one of three debutants as Brett D’Oliveira replaced his injured Worcestershire team-mate Joe Clarke, and Lancashire’s Saqib Mahmood was handed his first appearance of the series – even though like Sam Curran, he still qualifies for the Under-19s.

The Curran brothers each took an early wicket to reduce Pakistan to 30 for two, but Jaahid was then joined by his captain Babar Azam to add 97 for the third wicket.

Liam Dawson had Babar caught by Tom Curran at long-on for 55, but Jaahid had Pakistan on course at 208 for three in the 36th over. Then the elder Curran brother claimed his second wicket, and Mahmood his first for the Lions, before Wood ripped out Jaahid’s off stump – and had Bhatti caught behind off his next delivery.

Billings took a steepling catch running back towards the pavilion to give Wood his third wicket of the match, and his eighth of the series, before Sam Curran and Dawson polished things off.


Click here to buy tickets to Monday's Lions match and Canterbury Cricket Week