Billings on the mend as Kent Spitfires make flying start in T20

The county have started their campaign in style, beating this season’s form team Somerset in the opener, then winning at Hampshire.

Keen to improve on their quarter-final berth last year, they next face Essex Eagles at Canterbury on Friday evening [July 26].

The wicketkeeper-batsman, who was born in Pembury and went to school in Sevenoaks, missed out on England’s World Cup triumph after dislocating his shoulder.

Having undergone surgery, the Indian Premier League star is now back in the nets and aiming to play in Spitfires’ south group clash with Middlesex at Lord’s on August 1.

The 28-year-old, who grew up on a fruit farm near Hartley, intends to work his way back to full fitness by turning out for Sevenoaks Vine in the Kent League Premier DIvision.

“I’m working hard in the gym and hitting 200 to 300 balls a day in the nets, so I feel like the comeback is within touching distance now,” said Billings.

“I’m hoping to play my first game for Sevenoaks Vine in the Kent League and am very much looking forward to getting back out in the middle.

“So, I’m trying for August 1 but, like with any long-term injury, you have to be fluid and realistic and if I’m not quite right then I’ll have to tick over and bide my time.”

The captaincy issue has become complicated. With Billings sidelined, Kent planned for Heino Kuhn to lead the Spitfires in this short format.

But Kuhn missed the start of the T20 Blast while under concussion protocols after he was hit in the neck by Fidel Edwards in the Championship match against Hampshire.

‘Whatever has been chucked at the young lads, they’ve dealt with it. I’ve no doubt that will continue’

With Joe Denly training with the England Test squad, the mantle was passed to Daniel Bell-Drummond, who had never captained the side before; he has impressed onlookers with his leadership in the first two games.

Billings said: “It’s funny in a way that over the last three or four years when people looked at Kent’s T20 side it was our batting that caught the eye, but when you take Joe, Heino and myself out, that may not now be the case.

“But our absence will create opportunities for young lads like Zak Crawley, Ollie Robinson and Jordan Cox, and the temperament of those guys so far has been most positive and impressive.

“Whatever has been chucked at them, they’ve dealt with it. I’ve no doubt that will continue.

“On top of that we’ve made three or four great signings in the bowling department, which has been our slightly weaker suit in recent years.

“We’ve signed Hardus Viljoen on Kolpak terms who can bowl heavy pace in the mid-sections, and Kiwi Adam Milne, who has been the best performer in the last two Blast tournaments.”

“We’ve now got a left-arm option with Fred Klaassen and spin from Mohammad Nabi. People will say, well Nabi’s only an off-spinner, but he has incredible skill and nous.

“With his skill set he can bowl in the powerplay, in the middle or even at the death, so he and the other guys bring us plenty of options.”

Billings added: “Batting gets you into a position to win games but it’s bowling units who go a long way to winning you tournaments by getting you over the line in matches that you may not quite think you’re favourites to win.

“We will give it our very best to win the Blast 2019, but it will be a squad task with different people chipping in and holding their hands up at various stages of the competition.”

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