No Ashes baggage for English ODI squad: Billings

England’s cricket focus has turned to a five-match ODI series against with an eye towards winning next year’s home World Cup following their disastrous Ashes campaign.

The visitors’ one-day squad assembled in Sydney on Tuesday ahead of a warm-up match at Drummoyne Oval on Thursday against a Cricket XI, and the January 14 series opener in Melbourne.

Coach Trevor Bayliss has long viewed the 2019 World Cup on home soil as a serious target for his charges after England missed the quarter-finals in the 2015 tournament, and this series provides an excellent opportunity to salvage something productive from a forgettable tour.

His squad for the limited-overs series looks significantly different to that which surrendered the Ashes this summer, ‘s win in Sydney on Monday completing a 4-0 series triumph.

Only six members of England’s ODI squad played in the Ashes – Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Jake Ball, Chris Woakes and Tom Curran.

Four of their new teammates have been playing in the Big Bash this summer, Sydney Sixers duo Sam Billings and Jason Roy, the Thunder’s Jos Buttler and David Willey of the Perth Scorchers.

“Most of us haven’t got the baggage of the Ashes so we’re fresh, raring to go,” Billings said.

“It’s a very different group, only a few players are still overlapping from the Test squad. For us, we’re seeing it as a completely fresh challenge.

“Test cricket’s gone unfortunately, the Aussies simply outplayed the Poms. In ODI cricket over the last two years we’ve been as good a side as anyone, [and were] Twenty20 [World Cup] finalists, could’ve won that as well so we’ve got every confidence.”

Billings’ inclusion will bolster England’s middle-order batting and his ingenuity was on display in Hobart on Monday as he crafted an unbeaten 61, almost hauling the Sixers to their first win of the BBL season.

Needing 18 off the last three balls, Billings hit compatriot Tymal Mills for two sixes before failing to connect with the final ball of the innings.

It was his finest innings of the summer, and looks to have set him up to play a key role against if called upon.

“For me, I’ve kind of been on the fringes, I’ve played quite a few games now for England but over a long period of time and [they have been] spaced out,” Billings said.

“Competitions like this [the Big Bash], it’s basically playing international cricket anyway. The standard, the pressure, big crowds, great grounds as well, for me to try and use competitions like this as a springboard to get an opportunity and then ultimately take my opportunity if I get one at international level.

“I’m hitting the ball well so hopefully get an opportunity and take it. Time in the middle under pressure like that is going to translate well into any format of the game.

“At the end of the day, it’s runs in the middle. One-day cricket and Twenty20 are far closer together now and Test cricket’s kind of on its own a little bit.

“That’s the way I see it, and when I try and mentally prepare for different formats of the game. If you’re hitting the ball well there’s no reason why you can’t chop and change.”

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