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Kent captain Sam Billings on making his England debut in the fifth Test against Australia

Sam Billings is loving his England debut - even if the game is going against them in the final Ashes Test of the series.

Kent captain Billings made 29 with the bat but England conceded a 115-run lead to Australia on first innings in Hobart, a lead extended to 137 runs with seven wickets left by the Aussies by the close of day two.

Sam Billings - scored 29 on his Test debut for England. Picture: Ady Kerry
Sam Billings - scored 29 on his Test debut for England. Picture: Ady Kerry

Despite the tough times, Billings could hardly hold back his pride and excitement of playing Test cricket for his country.

Billings' 29 in the pink ball day/night Test featured six boundaries, including a couple of exquisite cover drives, before he holed out to Scott Boland at fine leg when hooking Cameron Green.

“I absolutely loved it, it was far better than (being) sat on the sofa waiting to board a plane,” said Billings, who was drafted into the Test squad just when he was due to report for England One-Day duty.

“It was a great challenge against a brilliant attack that has been on fire this series.

“That’s what you want to do as a cricketer, you want to pit yourself against the best.

“It was just a shame I got out when I did but I felt really good, in good rhythm and flow.”

Billings has carried more drinks than most on the international stage in the past three years but he impressed on his debut.

His positive outlook on life translates into his cricket, especially as he sees this unexpected opportunity as a ‘free hit’.

“It’s been a rollercoaster,” said Billings, reflecting on the past week. “I’ve got two overwhelming feelings, one of nothing to lose and everything to gain in terms of an opportunity - one that I didn’t expect.

“I haven’t gone through all the messages but I’m really appreciative of the messages I’ve got and the love shown, it has blown me away.

“On two different counts it’s been amazing and probably hasn’t quite sunk in. I’ve been able to enjoy it a lot more than I probably have done previously when I’ve played for England.

“Sometimes I’ve felt under so much pressure to perform and take an opportunity I’ve not enjoyed it as much as I could, worried about whether I get picked for the next game or next squad, this I just saw as a free hit.

“It’s a great opportunity to make a statement, I’m disappointed I didn’t go on but I absolutely loved it.”

The 30-year-old added: “When you get older you have a bit more clarity around your own game and the method you want to input.

“I had a clear game plan, a clear method I wanted to use against the different challenges (of the) bowlers.

“Batting is all about mindset, rhythm and confidence, the only way you get true confidence is from time in the middle. Yes, it’s a different format but runs in the Big Bash no doubt helped me hugely.

“It’s a flick of mindset and that clarity in decision making. I’m always going to play positively, always going to try and score runs and hit the ball.

“I enjoyed it all. I enjoyed getting off the mark, that was a highlight initially and settled the nerves nicely. The most pleasing thing was the clarity I had with my game plan and decision making.”

Billings enjoyed plenty of good-natured banter in the field with the Aussies. He’s played against most of them before and was a former team-mate of captain Pat Cummins from his time playing club cricket down under.

“One of the best things I ever did was play club cricket over here at Penrith,” said Billings. “I played with Pat Cummins and this morning he sent me a message of a scorecard when we played together at Sutherland Cricket Club, I got a duck and he got a hundred!

“That experience was brilliant, that different mentality (helps) you learn your game and craft.”

Day three gets under way at 3.30am on Sunday morning.

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