I built innings in half-hour blocks and made 210
Joe Billings marked himself out as a star of the future when he hit a record 210 for Sussex U16s back in 2015. Nearly two years later, the 18-year-old is starting his second season in the Sussex academy and has recently returned from a winter tour to South Africa.
And Billings is confident the experience of cricket in a different country will help him as he develops that game plan which saw him bat 90 overs against Surrey U16s in the summer of 2015.
“I always set out to bat in blocks, in half-hour blocks. I kept getting through them and you get to lunch and you’re 40 not out and you carry on,” he said.
“It was one of those days where it all fell into place, we stuck to the gameplans all day and that’s what happens, if you stick to them you’re likely to be successful.
“Cape Town was a really good experience, we played a lot of tough opposition on some challenging wickets against some very good players. It’s good to get experience of the way they play the game.
“It’s all about learning and developing your game against different bowlers and different conditions and that’s what it gave us the opportunity to do.
“You do notice how you start to adapt your game plans, in particular in longer format cricket, and you can develop your game plans to be successful.”
Billings is entering his second season in the Sussex academy, he made his second team debut in 2015 and made further appearances last year but is looking to solidify his place in the side this summer.
“I made my second-team debut against Kent and you do notice the step up as they had six or seven professionals playing, Adam Ball took a lot of wickets and Ben Harmison played, too,” he explained.
“If you can make your way in that level of cricket there’s another big step up but you have to try to make your way up slowly.”
With plenty of steps on the ladder to first-class cricket still to be complete, Billings is impressed with the set-up at Sussex which has encouraged him to mix with the likes of Luke Wright, Chris Jordan and Ed Joyce, to pick their brains and learn from their experience when he is in Hove.
“The set-up down there is excellent throughout the winter and I have lots of contact with a lot of coaches,” he added.
“Throughout the summer we are encouraged to get in and around the professionals and second team as much as we can and gain experience.
“We are encouraged to try and get into that environment, all the staff are very encouraging to the young players around the group.
“It’s a good experience to know what it’s about beforehand, you know about second team cricket and until you have the experience, you know where you need to be and how to hone your game.”