Ashes 2021-22: Billings joins England squad after scenic 500-mile journey

By Sports Desk January 08, 2022

Sam Billings has joined the England Ashes squad, driving more than 500 miles down the Australian coast to ease the tourists' injury crisis.

With Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler both doubtful for the fifth and final Test of England's disappointing Ashes series, Billings got the call to join the squad just 90 minutes before he was due to leave Australia.

The 30-year-old was in Queensland with Big Bash League side Sydney Thunder, and spoke of his surprise at the call-up, after driving down the east coast of the country alone, as a precaution against COVID-19.

"I thought it was a joke," a thrilled Billings said in an interview with BBC Sport's Test Match Special program.

"I was due to go to Brisbane airport to fly home, and instead I went to Gold Coast airport to pick up a rental car, and I was on my way."

Ollie Pope stood in behind the stumps for England on day four of the fourth Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground, with both Bairstow and Buttler waiting on scans after sustaining hand injuries.

Pope took four catches before the hosts declared at 265-6.

England's prospects of victory look unlikely, given they are chasing a target of 388. However, openers Zak Crawley and Haseeb Hameed were disciplined in a short spell at the crease in the evening session on Saturday, and the tourists' focus will now be on securing a draw to avoid going 4-0 down in the series.

Billings is hoping to make a positive impact in the final Test. Should he feature, he will become the 700th man to represent England in the longest format. 

"I've had to bide my time for an opportunity or consistent game time," Billings said. "I'm really enjoying my cricket, to have the chance to play and not just to run the drinks, I've done that too much!

"I want to prove, not only to myself, but also to other people, that I'm not just a fill-in, I am good enough to warrant a place in the side.

"If the opportunity does arise then there's no pressure on me. It's something that no one really expected, and I've got nothing to lose. That's a great place to be, and sometimes that's when you play your best cricket."

Billings then discussed the rather unique overnight journey that he undertook to meet up with the squad. 

"It's been quite a long drive, I'm not going to lie," said Billings. "People don't realise how big Australia is. It really is vast."

After an overnight stop near the border between Queensland and New South Wales, the 30-year-old continued his journey "at the crack of dawn" on Saturday morning, and was at least able to take in some of the country's scenery. 

"I've been on a motorway through lots of trees, hills and rivers. It's been pleasant, better than the M25!"

Related items

  • Windies will miss Hetmyer for Netherlands ODIs - Roddy Estwick Windies will miss Hetmyer for Netherlands ODIs - Roddy Estwick

    West Indies bowling coach Roddy Estwick believes West Indies will miss middle order batsman Shimron Hetmyer during their upcoming tour of the Netherlands and India but hopes the player will make himself available for future tours.

    The West Indies will take on the Netherlands in three ODIs on May 31, June 2 and 4. The team will then travel to Pakistan for three more ODIs on June 8, 10 and 12.

    Estwick was speaking at a media conference late last week when he addressed the Hetmyer situation. Hetmyer recently withdrew from Rajasthan Royals in the IPL to travel back to Guyana for the birth of his first child.

    Mere days later, he returned to the Royals which will play the Gujarat Titans on Tuesday, May 24 in the first IPL qualifier. However, the explosive Guyanese batsman has not made himself unavailable for the West Indies tours.

    Estwick said the West Indies will miss his talents.

    "If someone like Hetmyer's not playing, you're obviously going to miss his talent. He's having an outstanding season for Rajasthan Royals. He's doing very, very well. He's playing well,” Estwick said.

    “He will be missed, but at the end of the day, he's not there. He's asked not to be selected for this tour so we have to get on without him and we hope that he will make himself available for future tours."

    Notwithstanding Hetmyer’s absence, Estwick said he expects the West Indies to win the three ODI series against the Netherlands.

    "Our expectation is to win all three ODIs [in the Netherlands] but it's not going to be easy," Estwick said. "Remember, a lot of the players won't have played in conditions like the ones we'll encounter in the Netherlands.

    "It's about how quickly we adjust to conditions. We've only got a couple of days' practice before we go into the first ODI so it's all about adjusting and getting used to the conditions and then executing plans as well as possible."

                

  • Livingstone shines once more as Kings close IPL season by defeating Hyderabad Livingstone shines once more as Kings close IPL season by defeating Hyderabad

    Punjab Kings closed their 2022 Indian Premier League season with a five-wicket victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad in Mumbai.

    Liam Livingstone led the way for the Kings with an impressive knock of 49 from 22 balls as they condemned Hyderabad to a sixth defeat in seven matches with four overs to spare.

    Hyderabad won the toss and elected to bat first in the final match of the regular season, which pitted two teams that had failed to qualify for the play-offs.

    Despite the early dismissal of Priyam Garg for just four, Abhishek Sharma (43) and Rahul Tripathi (20) moved Hyderabad to 61-1 before the latter was caught at short fine leg.

    Aiden Markram (21), Washington Sundar (25) and Romario Shepherd (26 not out) added further contributions to the cause of Hyderabad, who set a target of 157-8.

    Jonny Bairstow (23) made the early running for the Kings before he was bowled by Fazalhaq Farooqi.

    Shahrukh Khan (19) and Mayank Agarwal (one) went in the space of two overs, but the 41-run partnership of Livingstone and Shikhar Dhawan put the Kings well in control.

    Despite Dhawan going for 39 to Farooqi, Livingstone was not to be moved as he hit four boundaries during the 15th over (two sixes and two fours) against Shepherd to move his side to the brink of victory, which was secured when Prerak Mankad hit the rope with his very first ball.

    Livingstone does the damage

    Once again, Livingstone produced an inspired batting display for the Kings with his knock of 49, including five sixes, although he narrowly missed out on a fifth half-century of the season, which would have moved him level with David Warner (five).

    Meanwhile, only Jos Buttler (37) bettered his tally of 34 sixes during the regular campaign.

    Three wickets for Brar

    While Livingstone led the way from the crease, Harpreet Brar shone with the ball.

    The spinner took three important wickets to stop Hyderabad in their tracks; ending Sharma and Tripathi's 47-run partnership by dismissing the latter, and finishing with an impressive 3-26 from his four overs.

  • Pujara returns to India squad for rescheduled England Test Pujara returns to India squad for rescheduled England Test

    Cheteshwar Pujara has been rewarded with a return to the India squad for the rearranged fifth Test against England in July after a fine spell in the County Championship.

    India, led by Virat Kohli, were 2-1 up in the five-match Test series in England before the tourists were unable to field a team due to coronavirus-related concerns in September.

    The one-off Test starts at Edgbaston on July 1, following a four-day warm-up game against Leicestershire on June 24, and India have named their 17-man red-ball squad.

    Pujara was dropped for the home Test series against Sri Lanka but has been reinstated after managing 720 runs in eight innings for Sussex – including four centuries – in County Championship Division Two.

    Ravindra Jadeja is also part of the touring party despite pulling out of the ongoing Indian Premier League due to a rib injury, while Hanuma Vihari and Shubman Gill retained their spots.

    Rohit Sharma will lead the Test side after Kohli, who remains in the squad, stepped down as captain following the 2-1 series defeat to South Africa earlier this year.

    Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami will lead the bowling attack, which includes Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur and the uncapped Prasidh Krishna.

    Ajinkya Rahane was not available for selection after sustaining a hamstring injury, while openers Mayank Agarwal and Priyank Panchal were the other two left out from the Sri Lanka series.

    Meanwhile, Rohit, Kohli and Bumrah were all rested for the home five-match T20I series against South Africa, which starts on June 9.

    KL Rahul will skipper the white-ball side in Sharma's absence, with fast bowler Umran Malik handed a maiden call-up after impressing in the IPL with Sunrisers Hyderabad.

    The experienced Hardik Pandya and Dinesh Karthik return to the international limited-overs squad, while spin duo Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal make their comebacks after taking the IPL by storm.

    Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ishan Kishan, Deepak Hooda and Shreyas Iyer all retain their spots, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar heading a bowling attack that includes Harshal Patel, Avesh Khan and Arshdeep Singh.

    India’s Test squad: Rohit Sharma (captain), KL Rahul (vice-captain) Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Hanuma Vihari, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rishabh Pant (wk), KS Bharat (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Prasidh Krishna.

    India’s T20I squad: KL Rahul (captain), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ishan Kishan, Deepak Hooda, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (vice-captain)(wk), Dinesh Karthik (wk), Hardik Pandya, Venkatesh Iyer, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Ravi Bishnoi, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Avesh Khan, Arshdeep Singh, Umran Malik.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.