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Kent and England keeper-batsman Sam Billings says playing overseas makes him a better cricketer

By Alex Hoad

Sam Billings says he has an emotional connection to Kent and is desperate to achieve success with the club after signing a new contract this week.

The keeper-batsman came through the ranks at his home county and made his debut in all formats in 2011.

However, 13 ODI and 13 T20I appearances for England, as well as white-ball stints in the IPL, Big Bash and Pakistan Super League, have limited his Kent service over the past two summers.

Sam Billings Picture Gary Browne

Sam Billings Picture: Gary Browne

The 26-year-old was strongly linked with a move to a Test-ground county – particularly Notts and Surrey – but he will remain at Kent in 2018 and serve as Sam Northeast’s vice-captain.

Billings has only played 53 first-class games in seven seasons for Kent and he said: “I have still got a lot to prove, especially in four-day cricket but I’ve averaged 44 over the last two seasons in first class cricket so I feel my game is definitely progressing year-on-year.”

He added: “A few Kent fans on social media have voiced their opinions on my travels.
“I know the supporters would like to see me play a full season of county cricket but these are great opportunities and ones you’ll only be able to take up at a certain time in your career.

“If you get offered the opportunity to play top-level cricket around the world, in my opinion it would be stupid not to take it up. It does improve you as a cricketer.”

He added: “The example I gave to (head coach) Matt Walker at our end of season review was coming from the IPL into a pressure situation when we need 12 an over in front of 25,000 people in a T20 at the Oval – coming in and being able to execute my skills and more or less get us over the line.

“That was simply because I’ve had those opportunities around the world and played in situations like that.

"The only way you learn is by playing in high-pressure situations. That experience can help you improve and put performances in for Kent and hopefully England further down the line, too.”

After committing his future to the club he joined at the age of eight, Billings hopes the disappointment of falling short in the Championship promotion push could inspire Kent to ‘an incredible’ season in 2018.

He said: “You have that emotional connection to the county, it’s home. My family are Kent through and through.

“It means a lot to play for my home county and makes (success) far more important.
“This year has hurt – things haven’t been good enough but it’s an exciting time. A lot of the time you can have an incredible season after a bad one.

“As long as we learn from this season, that’s the most important thing.”

Essex won the Championship this season, a year after pipping Kent to promotion from Division 2 and Billings added: “A couple of quality signings like they made and we’re in a similar position.

“We have had so many close shaves in recent years. It’s a matter of getting across the line now.”

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