Sydney Thunder has taken another big step in its march towards KFC BBL|11 glory with sought after English wicketkeeper batter Sam Billings agreeing to return to the Thunder Nation.
Billings played two seasons with the Sydney Sixers earlier in his career before making the switch across town to the Thunder last summer where he made a stunning impact behind the stumps and with the bat.
The 30-year-old, who captains his county side Kent CCC and the Oval Invincibles and has played for his country in both white ball formats, scored 260 runs in 10 innings with a strike rate of 142, including a pair of half centuries, punctuated by a knock of 83 from 48 balls against the Scorchers in Perth.
The signing is Thunder’s second international star in as many weeks, with fellow Englishman Alex Hales agreeing to terms a week ago. Like Hales, Billings said the balance of the squad and talent of the young players on the roster was very appealing.
“I think the most exciting thing about coming back to the Thunder is the group of young players that complement the older, experienced heads,” Billings said.
“Hales is obviously a high quality player and we have all seen what he can do.
“In my first experiences with Sydney Thunder last season there were obviously positive signs but we didn’t finish where we wanted to, or could finish. There is no reason we can’t take another step forward and go close to the title.”
Billings also joined Hales with high praise for rising Thunder batter Ollie Davies, the big hitting Sydney surfer who set the BBL alight last season with some thrilling ball striking.
“Ollie is a great young player,” Billings enthused.
“I spent quite a bit of time with him and we got on well. The way he plays, he really does take it on and that becomes a positive influence on other people.
“I saw bits of myself in him a little bit with that raw approach. I think he really is a star of the future and this year we will see that last season was invaluable experience for him.
“We saw glimpses of what he can do last year and now with Trevor Bayliss as head coach, he’s a good coach to learn off. Both Halesy and I have played a lot under Trevor and it’s really exciting, not only for younger players, but for the older players, to be influenced by TB.”
Billings also said he was keen to see the progression made by fellow Thunder wicketkeeper-batters Baxter Holt and Matt Gilkes and was more than willing to help mentor them throughout the tournament.
“Both those guys really do have very different characters but both are keen to learn and that provides for healthy competition,” he said.
“I’ve done quite a bit of captaincy now and you learn certainly how to be self aware and importantly group aware.
“I enjoy that role of being there if people need advice as a young player. I was lucky to have that when I was coming through the ranks. I have a good grip of T20 cricket having played a lot of it now and from those experiences I think I can bring positivity to that environment.”
Sydney Thunder BBL Squad
Head Coach: Trevor Bayliss
Assistant Coach: Shawn Bradstreet, Chandika Hathurusinghe
Contracted for BBL|11: Usman Khawaja (C), Sam Billings, Jonathan Cook, Ben Cutting, Ollie Davies, Brendan Doggett, Matthew Gilkes, Chris Green, Alex Hales, Baxter Holt, Nathan McAndrew, Alex Ross, Daniel Sams, Tanveer Sangha, Chris Tremain