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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Sam Billings: Youngsters ‘far better off’ from playing in Hundred ahead of Blast quarter-finals


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Insists Hundred is ‘really important’ for young players who called up as replacements from Royal London Cup

Sam Billings has insisted that the last-minute withdrawals of a number of players from the Royal London Cup as replacements for teams in the Hundred will leave young cricketers “far better off” than staying with their counties.
Kent, where Billings is club captain, have ten Vitality Blast regulars – including overseas players Qais Ahmad and Adam Milne – involved in the Hundred, with Zak Crawley on England Test duty, Jack Leaning (Trent Rockets) and Matt Milnes (Welsh Fire) both called up as late replacements in the last week, and Jordan Cox (Oval Invincibles) and Fred Klaassen (Manchester Originals) picked as wildcards.

As a result, their Royal London Cup campaign has started poorly, with three defeats and a no-result, but Billings said that players’ involvement in the competition would serve the club well ahead of their Blast quarter-final against Birmingham Bears later this month and in the longer term.

In particular, he highlighted the example of Milnes, who played for Kent in the Royal London Cup on Sunday afternoon and was called into the Fire’s set-up on Monday as an injury replacement for Liam Plunkett. With Jake Ball also sidelined – he had a scan on Monday after leaving the field in Saturday’s fixture against Manchester Originals – Milnes went straight into the side against Billings’ Oval Invincibles and dismissed Jason Roy with his first ball in the Hundred, eventually returning figures of 1 for 28 from 20 balls and capturing the attention of Dale Steyn on Twitter as he was clocked at 87mph/140kph.

“What a great opportunity for him,” Billings said. “This is what the Hundred is about. Look, I know that in terms of the 50-over comp, the performances for Kent haven’t quite been there at the moment and of course as a club it’s disappointing.

“But the positive is we’ve got nine or ten guys in this Hundred at the moment and this is international cricket. You’ve got a full Oval crowd there and he’s come in for his first game after playing for Kent yesterday. It’s a completely different atmosphere, completely different level, against an international line-up.

“What a great experience for a young bloke, getting a wicket with his first ball and riding the emotions of that game. That is what’s going to produce international cricketers. For us as a club – and as Kent fans in general – that’s what we want to do: produce England cricketers and franchise cricketers.

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