Ahead of his sixth BBL campaign down under, English batsman Sam Billings is super optimistic about the Brisbane Heat’s title prospects.
A slow start to BBL12, where the Heat lost six of its first eight games, threatened to derail their campaign before winning seven of its nine games en route to a heartbreaking finals loss to the Perth Scorchers.
Whilst Billings didn’t finish amongst the top run-scorers in BBL12, his batting numbers since joining the league in 2016 have been steady, scoring 1014 runs in 39 matches at an average of 30.73, including six half-centuries.
The Heat will have the majority of their 18-man squad back this season, with the new addition of 202 cm English fast bowler Paul Walter joining the team in September’s BBL draft.
Ahead of their season opener against the Melbourne Stars at The Gabba next Thursday night, Billings believes the incredible run from the second half of last season can spur the team to go one step further.
“Absolutely. I think the change around in fortunes compared to the midway point of last season and how the boys performed at the back end of last season was phenomenal,” Billings said.
“Sneaking through to the qualifiers and then getting all the way to the final was a hell of an achievement. I think we’ve got the squad to go one better. And the belief from last year of such a good run can really put us in good stead this year.”
Entering his second season for the Heat, Billings is raving about playing in Australia, what he calls an “ingrained culture” when it comes to cricket.
Another factor luring the 32-year-old back onto Australian shores is due to the freezing cold and snowy English winters, compared to the lovely Australian summer.
As the Heat continue preparations to claim their second BBL title, a looming destruction of power hitting will enter The Gabba turnstiles on Thursday night, with Glenn Maxwell to lineup for the Stars.
Maxwell has enjoyed a rich vein of form, most notably at Australia’s World Cup triumph, with a record-breaking ODI century against the Netherlands off only 40 deliveries and the fastest double-century at a World Cup against Afghanistan.
He’s also been one of the elite BBL players, which includes blasting a record 154 off only 64 balls against the Hobart Hurricanes on January 19, 2022.
Billings credits Maxwell as one of the top players in the world and is under no illusions about the challenge he’ll bring.
“He’s been one of the best players in the world and has shown over probably a decade now,” Billings said.
“So any competition needs their best players performing and hopefully he doesn’t get it right next Thursday.
“Australian cricket is in a great spot at the moment and he’s an absolute forefront of their white-ball team. For us, we’ve had some great battles playing against them. But I’m looking forward to kind of going toe to toe with him.”
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The BBL campaign will see matches reduced from 56 down to 40 for the first time after they has been constant criticism of the tournament being too long.
With the full Gabba contingent ready to support their Brisbane Heat, Billings says it’s one of his “favourite grounds to play at.”
“Awesome wicket for white-ball cricket and the support is amazing,” Billings said.
“I heard a lot about the Brisbane support for their sports teams before I came here and I saw that last year. Its great we’ve got five games at The Gabba this year. All that support means a huge amount to all the boys and hopefully put on a show for them.”