Sam Billings hailed the influence of England captain Eoin Morgan after justifying his inclusion for the first Twenty20 international against Pakistan with a man-of-the-match performance in Dubai.
Regular wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler was surprisingly rested by the tourists on Thursday, despite returning to form in style at the end of the preceding one-day international series with a record-breaking 52-ball 116.
In Buttler’s absence, the similarly aggressive Billings was given an opportunity to shine – and the 24-year-old took his chance superbly, striking 53 from 25 balls with the aid of some innovative strokeplay as England recovered from 19-3 to set a challenging target of 161 that proved beyond Pakistan, who were all out for 146.
After successfully transferring his attacking approach at county level to the international arena, Billings was keen to highlight the input of Morgan.
He told Sky Sports: “That’s a credit to Morgy. He said ‘just play your way, play exactly what’s got you here in the first place’. Thankfully it came off.”
Debutant James Vince (41) and Liam Plunkett (3-21 from four overs) also impressed in their first outings on tour.
“You’ve got to be ready,” added Billings. “As a squad, it shows the depth that we’ve got now moving forward in one-day cricket.”
Billings revealed in the post-match presentation that he had taken inspiration from Buttler’s hundred in the fourth ODI.
The former subsequently added: “At the end of the day, the bloke [Buttler] is a freak – he showed the other night how good he is.
“If I get an opportunity, it’s about giving it a go. If we can both play in the same side that would be fantastic.”
Morgan, meanwhile, was delighted to see a somewhat experimental side prevail, with Joe Root another high-profile player to be rested.
“[It] was a really strong performance in which we showed a lot of character,” said England’s skipper.
“It’s always a good sign when guys who haven’t played at all on the tour come in and do well. It’s a risk you take [trying new players] but today was brilliant. I’m very proud of the guys.”
The second of three Twenty20s between Pakistan and England takes place at the same venue on Friday.