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.”