Phil Salt spent a good portion of his childhood growing up in Barbados so he savoured making his Twenty20 debut for England at the Kensington Oval despite a 20-run defeat against the West Indies.
Rovman Powell’s brawny, six-laden maiden T20 international century ushered the Windies to a formidable 224 for five after they were asked to bat first by stand-in England captain Moeen Ali, with Eoin Morgan nursing a quad niggle.
Tom Banton’s 73 off 39 deliveries gave England hope of pulling off their third highest chase ever in the format before his downfall led to Salt taking ownership of the tourists’ reply with a sumptuous 22-ball half-century.
— Windies Cricket (@windiescricket) January 27, 2022
Salt, who lived on the Caribbean island for half a dozen years following his family’s move from north Wales when he was nine, was bowled for 57 from 24 balls as England posted 204 for nine to fall 2-1 down in the five-match series.
Despite the defeat, Salt was able to reflect with some satisfaction at making his bow at a venue where he played a lot of youth cricket and watched England win their first global trophy at the 2010 World Twenty20.
He said: “It was very cool to play here, it’s a ground that I’ve watched England play on so many times.
“I’ve watched them win a World Cup here and I’ve seen almost every single series I could when they were over here. To make my debut on the ground is incredible.”
While Salt is more accustomed to opening in the sprint format, being asked to bat in the middle-order is not a unique experience for the 25-year-old, having occasionally done so on the lucrative franchise circuit.
He believes being prepared to accelerate from the outset means he can adapt to batting in any position after walking to the crease with a much-changed England line-up four wickets down and still needing 118 for victory.
Asked what was going through his mind at that time, he said: “Winning the game. It’s very, very clear when you come into this group, the mentality you need to have. Winning the game was the only thing on my mind at the time.
“The role I had is is one I enjoy doing, the game is always in front of you when you come in and are chasing, you know exactly what you need to do.
“It’s a skill that not many guys have so if you can be good at that, it’s definitely a big weapon in your armoury.
“Sometimes you get tied up a bit up top when you open, when the field’s up, but with everyone back and the scoreboard looking the way it was, it was very clear what I needed to do.”
Salt has been capped in three one-dayers but was making his first T20 appearance for England alongside international debutants George Garton and Harry Brook, with the new Lancashire signing finding out earlier on Wednesday.
Salt added: “I think Bilbo (Sam Billings) didn’t pull up the greatest, recovery-wise, after the last couple of games so that’s when I knew had the nod.”
There were 31 sixes in total on a difficult evening for bowlers in Bridgetown, with Powell celebrating his recall – he came in at the expense of Odean Smith – with 10 maximums as he became just the third West Indian T20 centurion.
His efforts – allied with Nicholas Pooran’s 70 off 43 balls in a 122-run stand, the Windies’ highest third-wicket T20 partnership – steered the islanders to their best ever total against England in the format.
Powell, who was out for 107 off 53 balls, said: “It means a lot. For the last six or seven months, I had it tough with not scoring a lot of runs. It’s good for me to get the opportunity and to take it.
“I hope it’s a breakthrough international performance. It’s just for me to go back to the drawing board, think about the stuff I did right and hopefully I can replicate it come (the fourth match on) Saturday.”