Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Prior to Saturday’s must-win match against the West Indies, Phil Salt had only passed the half-century mark twice in his 17 T20 international innings.

But anything that had gone before was thoroughly eclipsed as the right-hander pummelled the Windies’ bowling attack to all parts of Grenada’s National Cricket Stadium as England chased down a record 223 to beat the hosts by seven wickets and keep the best-of-five series alive after going 2-0 down.

Salt was at the crease from the first ball to the last as he compiled an unbeaten 109 from 56 balls with four fours, nine sixes, and a strike rate of 194.64, not to mention exceeding CricViz’s expected runs by +40.6.

Having made a 24-ball 57 on his T20I debut against the same opponent in his former home of Barbados in January last year, batting at No 6, the Lancashire batter had not quite hit those same heights save for an unbeaten 88 in the eight-wicket win over Pakistan in Lahore the following September.

Small wonder, then, it perhaps seemed like it was overdue for the 27-year-old, but he could hardly have asked for a better time to put together such a crucial innings and come to the fore in a manner the team had spoken about with England facing the prospect of a series defeat.

“It feels like it has been a long time coming in an England shirt, so it’s special to do it now – especially with them being able to take the series,” Salt, who acknowledged the importance of allowing England captain and fellow opener Jos Buttler to play his natural game as well, said.

“We’ve been talking as a group about someone standing up and being a match-winner, saying how much time you have.

Phil Salt shared an opening stand worth 115 runs with England captain Jos Buttler

“It’s about playing my game, doing it my way, and more than anything it’s about the role I have and the partnership with Jos, bringing him up to play as he does because he’s one of the best in the world.”

The prospects looked onerous for England as Salt and Buttler strode to the crease for the tourists’ reply after the West Indies racked up 222-6 from their 20 overs, despite being made to bat first after losing the toss.

But the openers were able to put on a stand of 115 in 11.2 overs and when Buttler went for 51, his 21st T20I half-century, followed quickly by Will Jacks, Salt stood firm to become only the fifth England men’s player to reach three figures in this format.

He and Liam Livingstone (30 from 18 balls) navigated some tricky overs, and then he took a back seat as multi-format star Harry Brook bludgeoned an unbeaten 31 from just seven balls – one four, four sixes and a 442.85 strike rate – to see England home.

It feels like it has been a long time coming in an England shirt, so it’s special to do it now.

England batter Phil Salt on his first T20I century

“Hats off to Phil Salt, that’s a fantastic innings and to bat all the way through and be not out at the end, that’s something we spoke about after the last game,” Buttler said of his opening partner.

“He’s got such great intent from ball one. That’s something we’ve asked him to do, and he always plays that way, but to go on and be there at the end is something we’d spoken about after the last game, staying in the game a bit longer.

“You surprise yourself how much you can do in the back end, so I thought we held the momentum a lot better and didn’t let the West Indies back in.”

Of concern for England though will be the fact they conceded the highest total a team has racked up at the National Cricket Stadium in T20 internationals, even though they had the West Indies 8-2 thanks to early wickets from Moeen Ali and Reece Topley.

England found it tough going at times in the field against the West Indies

Gus Atkinson and Tymal Mills in particular came in for some punishment from the West Indies’ batting line-up, going for economy rates of 16.5 and 18 runs per over respectively after sending down two overs apiece.

Former England bowler Steven Finn acknowledged that is an area Buttler’s team need to address, although he felt there was enough in what England did with the bat which can show them the way forward after struggling to fire in the first two T20 matches of this white-ball tour.

“The bowling, they’ll have to look at clearly after conceding 222, but they look completely committed to what they did with the bat today,” Finn told TNT Sports.

“It was the perfect blueprint for them and that will give them a lot of confidence going into these last two games.”

The teams now head to Trinidad for the final two T20Is, the first of which takes place on Tuesday and is another must-win for England if they are to force a decider in this best-of-five series.

Former West Indies captain Carlos Brathwaite expects current incumbent Rovman Powell to look to improve their fortunes with the ball as well but underlined the importance of that victory for England, who out-hit their opponents for sixes by 18 to 16 for the first time this series.

“It was necessary – very, very necessary,” Brathwaite told TNT Sports. “It was a good template for them, especially bat in hand, but I think both teams will have a look at the bowling side of things.

“But with bat in hand, they’re ticking all the boxes and it’s making for exciting cricket.”

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