But they flew to Hobart on Monday without Buttler, who returns to the UK tonight due to a broken thumb. Bairstow (broken thumb) and Ben Stokes (side strain) are with the squad, but their only hopes of playing in the Test are as specialist batters.
Billings, who has been playing in the Big Bash for Sydney Thunder, is likely to make his debut, becoming England’s 700th men’s Test cricketer, in a much-changed side. He has played 58 times in the white-ball formats since his debut in 2015.
He was due to fly home on Saturday to prepare for England’s T20 tour of West Indies, before a call to come to Hobart. He has since passed two PCR tests and flown with the team to Hobart. His only rival for the wicketkeeping gloves is Ollie Pope, who kept well as a sub on Saturday but is considered a batter by England.
“It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster,” he said. “I was probably 90 minutes to two hours away from getting on that flight with Saqib [Mahmood] back to the UK. It all happened pretty quickly. Went to Gold Coast Airport, got the rental car and cracked on. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind.”
Billings, the Kent captain, believes he is ready to play Test cricket after showing decent form for Thunder.
“Being 30 now, regardless of the format, regardless of circumstance, with experience and maturity, you get a sense of where your game is at,” he said. “I have been playing consistent cricket and scoring runs. It doesn’t really matter what format it is, it’s more about rhythm, confidence and mindset.
“Of course you have to apply yourself differently for a Test match, having that consistent cricket behind me definitely does help. [I’m] 100 per cent ready if required, and I will give absolutely everything I can.
"My game is in a good place, it has been in the longer format for the last three years for Kent. I have scored consistent runs, so I will have to take that experience. As long as you get your mind into a really good place, it’s about applying yourself to whatever format you need to.
“Like any side I go into I will try to make a positive impact on and off the field, and add to any environment I am put into. We will have to wait and see if that Test cap does come.”
Billings has taken inspiration from his Thunder teammate Usman Khawaja, who scored twin tons in Sydney having not played Test cricket since 2019.
“I obviously listened to Usman Khawaja over the last few days,” he continued. “Hearing his perspective, I know him very well from playing together at the Thunder.
“I thought he spoke fantastically well in terms of having that perspective, having that really open mind to the potential of what’s in front of him, and taking his opportunities.
“I think I can take inspiration from him. He was very honest and said, ‘I wasn’t sure if this opportunity would come again’, and as you’ve seen that’s how to grab an opportunity.
“It’s a really good way to look at it. You have got nothing to lose and everything to gain. I am in a really good place in my own game. I have made some technical changes over the last few years that I feel have really improved my all round game regardless of the format so I’m ready to go if need be.”