Hard work has been the key for Billings
Hard work has been the key for Billings

Kent Cricket captain Sam Billings has insisted that the hard work behind the scenes at the club has been key to the Spitfires reaching T20 Finals Day for the first time in 12 years.

Kent defeated Birmingham Bears in the Quarter Finals to book their place at Edgbaston on Saturday and will face Sussex in the Semi Finals before a potential final in their bid to lift their first T20 trophy since 2007.

And Billings, who has been club captain since 2018, has claimed the club had to adapt to do so.

“It comes back to the process we have tried to build over the last four or five years,” said the 30-year-old. “I think the club had to evolve and change.

“Paul Downton coming in as Director of Cricket has had a huge impact, both on and off the pitch, and there is a whole lot of work behind the scenes between the three of us (Billings, Downton and head coach Matt Walker) that people don’t realise.

“I think it has been a process, an environment where we have realised we need to cultivate ourselves and invest in people and make them grow and keep progressing.

“We are never going to have the biggest budget in the world and be able to sign big names here and there, but it is about getting the right individuals in the dressing room, also elevating characters into senior roles in terms of leadership, but it has been a collective effort and I think that is the best way in terms of a team sport to get the best out of each other.”

Billings has always been a Kent fan. Born in Pembury, he grew up in the county and has culminated his journey as the captain of the club.

Reaching Finals Day means a lot to him, and he feels it is long overdue.

“I think we all used time as motivation, certainly I did as an individual,” he said, speaking ahead of Saturday. “I wanted to be the guy to get us into Finals Day.

“As a player you just want to get that and for us, our hurdle has been getting over that Quarter Final. We back ourselves against anyone on our day and it is about turning up and I am so happy we got over that hurdle.

“Watching it on tv is really unenjoyable, thinking ‘we are a better side than these guys, we really should be there’. But that is why the game keeps dragging us back – it is about chasing something as an individual but also as a team.

“We are in a really good spot to put our best foot forward and give it a good a go as we ever have done, and we have been threatening to do it for a while.”

Billings will lead his team out in Birmingham with a beaming smile on his face. He remembers 2008 and 2009 just as well as 2007, but now wants to make memories with his Kent team.

“I was 16 (in 2007). I remember watching it as a lifelong Kent fan and it has been too long since we have been back there. It is going to be my first finals day at 30 years old, it is long overdue.

“I was on the academy back then and really wanted to be up there. I was playing club cricket for Hartley when we lost to Middlesex (in 2008); I remember that vividly in the bar after a game.

“One of my proudest moments as a cricketer was leading the team out for the Lord’s final in 2018. I remember seeing my old man, who is a MCC member in the Long Room and that was really special.

“I am a Kent bloke through and through, have been at the club a very long time and we are all fans at the end of the day as much as players as well. It is our job, but it means a lot, especially for the guys that have grown up here and learnt our cricket.

“It has been too long from a Kent point of view in terms of being back on the big stage. We need to be doing it more consistently and we have the quality in the room to do that.

“It will be very special for me, but very special for the other 10 guys as well, and we are ready for it.”