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England add Billings to Ashes squad as wicket-keeping injuries mount

England have plucked wicketkeeper Sam Billings from KFC BBL to join the Ashes squad
Jonny Bairstow. Photo: Cricket Australia

Sydney, Jan 7 (MNN) England have plucked wicketkeeper Sam Billings from KFC BBL to join the Ashes squad as both first and second-choice to keep wickets suffered hand injuries in the Sydney Test.

Jonny Bairstow batted through sharp pain to score England’s first century of their Vodafone Ashes tour but an agonising knock to his right thumb could leave him unable to take the gloves in Jos Buttler’s stead.

Both Bairstow, who is playing as a specialist batter but has kept extensively in Test cricket, and regular England keeper Jos Buttler may have suffered broken bones in this match after the latter was struck a nasty blow to his hand on a ball that bounced in front of him while he was keeping on day two.

Reserve batter and occasional keeper Ollie Pope was seen practicing with the gloves on Friday at the SCG and he could conceivably fill in for Buttler during this Test after the International Cricket Council begun allowing substitutes to take the gloves in 2017.

Billings was not listed as a sub-fielder on England’s team sheet for this Test and will therefore unlikely be allowed to take the gloves.

The 30-year-old could be called upon for the series finale in Hobart if Buttler and Bairstow remain hampered by their respective injuries.

Buttler’s position in the side may have come under the microscope anyway after he bagged a duck on day three to see his series batting average drop to 16 from seven innings.

That admittedly includes a gutsy 26 off 207 balls on the final day of the Adelaide Test when the right-hander might have salvaged a draw for England had he found more support.

His keeping also came under fire during that Test, dropping two straightforward chances.

Billings, who is in Sydney and will join the Test squad subject to receiving a negative PCR Covid-19 test result, is one of England’s growing legion of white-ball guns who has also outlined his eagerness for red-ball opportunities.

The Sydney Thunder star had been scheduled to fly back to the United Kingdom on Friday ahead of England’s upcoming limited-overs tour of the Caribbean later this month.

Bairstow was unsure as to whether he will be able to take the gloves in Sydney.

“I don’t know as yet,” said Bairstow, who brought up his century in the final over of day three and was unbeaten on 103 at the close of play.

“I’ll know some more information tomorrow. I’m not sure about the keeping side of things.

“But from a batting point of view, I’ll be out there in the morning.”

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