Sam Billings learned the value of going “old school” after digging in to tee up England’s record Twenty20 victory in St Kitts.
The tourists sealed a massive 137-run win over the West Indies at Warner Park after blowing their opponents away for just 45, but it was Billings who edged the bowling attack for man-of-the-match honours.
The game was heading in an entirely different trajectory when the Kent batsman arrived at the crease with England 32 for four inside six overs. A career-best knock of 87 later and he had altered the complexion of the contest.
Billings ended the innings in style, clubbing 53 off his last 16 deliveries, but pointed to a base-building partnership with Joe Root as the turning point.
Billings made a calm 34 in 31 balls during the fifth-wicket stand, weighing up conditions and minimising risk to set the stage for his subsequent assault.
“We’d earned the right to be able to explode at the end. We set the platform,” he explained.
“On a pitch that’s offering a bit to the bowlers and after losing early wickets you have to play a bit more of that old school cricket. It was more similar to coming in at four in a county game – being able to soak up the pressure and not be in a rush.
“I think sometimes as players we’ve probably tried too hard to force the issue. Trevor Bayliss said in the dressing room that the big learning from this was about adapting to conditions and earning the right towards the end, because we know we’ve got the power.”
With some of England’s most destructive hitters excused for the final leg of the Caribbean tour – Jason Roy, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes were all watching events at Warner Park from home – Root has been handed greater responsibility in a format that has not always brought out his best.
Some even wonder whether his nuanced approach has a place in the frenzied 20-over game, but Billings has no doubt about the Test captain’s value after watching him make a measured 55.
“Rooty always calms me down,” he said.
“Joe works it out very quickly and that’s why he’s consistently very good in all formats of the game. It was good to have him out there.
“You don’t need to hit every shot you’ve got straight away. He and I just spoke about getting a score on the board. With the guys who have been rested it provides opportunity for Joe to show what he can do.
“It sounds ridiculous saying Joe Root’s getting an opportunity because blokes are getting rested, but that’s the way it is. It was great to see him get some runs. There’s no doubt he’s good enough.”
England wrap up their trip with a final T20 in Basseterre on Sunday, with a 3-0 clean sweep on the cards.
Dawid Malan could be handed a first England outing since being axed from the Test team last August, with Joe Denly most likely to step aside, while there is a decision to make over Mark Wood.
The paceman has been rested from the last two games in a bid to manage his fitness but could come in for Liam Plunkett.