Phil Salt powers England to commanding T20 World Cup win over West Indies

Phil Salt and Jonny Bairstow laid down a serious statement of intent at the T20 World Cup as England thrashed the West Indies in front of their own fans in St Lucia.

The pre-match predictions of a batting bonanza came true at the Daren Sammy Stadium, but it was the visitors who flexed their muscles as they celebrated a commanding eight-wicket win in the battle of the big hitters.

Salt led a fearless pursuit as England eased to a target of 181 with 15 balls remaining, finishing 87 not out from 47 deliveries as he smashed five sixes and seven fours.

It was an outstanding effort from the opener, coming in front of a packed house pulling hard for the co-hosts, and Bairstow’s unbeaten 48 from 26 balls made things safe.

T20 Cricket WCup England West Indies
England’s Phil Salt, right, celebrates with teammate Jonny Bairstow (Ramon Espinosa/AP)

A game that had seemed to hang in the balance for long stages was effectively put to bed in a furious 16th-over assault by Salt, who monstered Romario Shepherd for three sixes and three fours as he helped himself to 30 runs in a few dazzling moments.

England had earlier dragged the game into their favour with some delicious death bowling from Jofra Archer and Adil Rashid, who took a combined two for six from the 16th and 17th overs.

At the time, the stage was set for the West Indies to take flight but they were grounded by a mixture of Archer’s precise yorkers and Rashid’s nagging leg-spin. Rashid finished with one for 21, at times playing a different game.

But credit for keeping the Windies to a manageable 180 for four also belongs to Archer, who chose his moment expertly to shut down the dangerous Nicholas Pooran.

Akeal Hosein hurried through two overs of searching left-arm spin for 11 at the start of the chase, but missed out on his reward when a graze off Salt’s toe-end failed to settle in Pooran’s gloves.

Salt, who had been on seven, carried on swinging. He found the top tier of the pavilion with a sweet strike off Andre Russell and lifting Alzarri Joseph all the way over fine leg as England dipped their noses in front with a powerplay score of 58 without loss.

T20 Cricket WCup England West Indies
England’s Jofra Archer, left, is congratulated by Jonny Bairstow after dismissing West Indies’ Nicholas Pooran, right (Ramon Espinosa/AP)

Jos Buttler (22) had settled into the supporting role before he was pinned lbw by Roston Chase. Moeen Ali was handed a wildcard promotion to number three but the left-hander’s attempts to disrupt the rhythm ended when he undercooked a pull off on 13.

Salt needed someone to share the load and Bairstow eagerly stepped up. In the space of eight deliveries he found the ropes three times and cleared them once, swatting Joseph’s short ball like a fly.

Hosein returned to restore order but instead saw Bairstow sweep, slog and inside-edge his way to another bundle of rapid-fire runs. The line was now in sight and Salt went on a tear to make sure the job was finished in style. Shepherd was his chosen prey, disappearing all over the park in a bravura display that put England with one foot in the semi-finals.

After sending the home side in, England emerged from the powerplay with honours just above even. There were no wickets – and not even a cast-iron chance – but that was mitigated by Brandon King retiring hurt just as he was finding his hitting range.

Exactly half of the legal deliveries in the first six overs were dots, but with eight fours and a six the score still crept to 54 for nought. Johnson Charles played a curious hand at the top of the order, lingering for almost an hour over his 34 and meandering close to a run-a-ball throughout.

That put more pressure on his team-mates to get things moving, with all eyes on Pooran after his brutal 98 against Afghanistan at the same venue on Monday.

The Trinidadian threatened to get going, showing off his lightning bat speed with chops over point and a swivel pull for six off Mark Wood, but was effectively subdued by spin as Rashid and Moeen strangled things.

When England finally made a breakthrough, Charles hacking Moeen to long-on, it cut loose what had become an anchor holding the innings back.

Powell sensed the need for speed, smashing Moeen down the ground and then hammering the otherwise tidy Sam Curran all the way out of the stadium. Three more sixes followed in four balls from Liam Livingstone, who was more relieved than anyone to see Powell slice to short third off his last ball.

At 137 for two, Archer and Rashid produced two defining overs. Archer gave up a solitary boundary as he tied Pooran in knots with yorkers then took his outside edge with a perfect cutter. Rashid then sewed up his spell by allowing just two runs off the 17th, persuading Russell to hole out along the way.