Ambitious Phil Salt keen to remain in England’s ODI thoughts

Phil Salt is hoping turn a one-off chance into a long-term England career after finally making his way to the national side via stopping points in Bodelwyddan, Barbados and Brighton.

Sunday, 11th July 2021, 8:54 pm
England's Phil Salt drives through the off side on his way to 60 against Pakistan at Lord's on Saturday. Picture: Nigel French/PA

Salt was born in the Welsh town, moved with his family to the Caribbean island while still at primary school and ultimately made a name for himself after settling on the south coast with Sussex.

The 24-year-old made has been on the fringes of the England side before but remained uncapped until a coronavirus outbreak forced the entire one-day squad into isolation and saw an SOS call for last-minute replacements go out to the counties.

Despite the chaos, the untested unit has proceeded to see off a full-strength Pakistan twice in a row to claim the Royal London Series with a game to spare, Salt top-scoring with a lively 60 at Lord’s.

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England's Phil Salt in action during the first one day international match at Sophia Gardens. Picture: Bradley Collyer/PA

Retracing some of the steps from his formative years, Salt revealed he was once vying to enter the West Indian cricket pathway.

“I was born in North Wales but my dad got a job out there and we all moved over when I was about 10. He was a property developer on the west coast,” he said.

“I think I was eligible through citizenship. I spent six years there and then came back to the UK to go to boarding school. I played Barbados Under-15s but never any further. I was available for selection for the Under-19 team but I didn’t get selected. Even if I was selected, I was going to stay and keep playing second team cricket for Sussex.

“At the time the way I was thinking was there’s a lot more longevity, I saw a pathway right from the very start with Sussex to come through and really build myself into the cricketer I wanted to be.”

England's Lewis Gregory (centre) celebrates taking Pakistan's final wicket at Lord's. Picture: Nigel French/PA

Reflecting on his time as an adopted Bajan, he adds with a smile: “It was not quite as good as Brighton but, yes, it’s a lovely part of the world.”

As an aggressive opening batter, Salt knows he has some way to go to dislodge World Cup winning incumbents Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy. But over the course of 54 balls at Lord’s he gave a compelling account of his potential as an understudy or eventual successor.

He struck the electric Shaheen Shah Afridi for two fours in the first five deliveries of the match and then went on a tear against Faheem Ashraf, finding the ropes four times in a single, destructive over.

It was not to imagine England’s quarantined captain Eoin Morgan – who has done more than anyone to push that kind of unfettered aggression in limited-overs cricket – nodding along at home.

“Coming into the England set-up, right from the very start, it’s something that Morgs has always been crystal clear on: we take the game on, we take the positive option,” he said.

“I sort of think it’s the blueprint of what has been so successful in 50-over cricket. Coming in it is pretty simple, I’ve got to get the boys off to a flier. That doesn’t mean it’s all big shots all over the place, a good ball is still a good ball and you have to play it with respect. But if you get any width or any length I am definitely looking to jump all over that.

“I’d love to play for England for as long as I possibly can. At the moment, for these three games, it’s about taking every opportunity with both hands. We’re the best side in the world and it’s it’s a tough one to break into, so at the moment it’s just about taking every opportunity I can get.”

Quarantined captain Eoin Morgan took to Twitter to hail the “incredible” efforts of a stand-in squad, who after romping to a nine-wicket victory in the first one-day international at Cardiff the deputies did it again in front of 23,000 fans at headquarters, reaching 247 all out before sealing a 52-run victory.

Lewis Gregory was a deserving player of the match having contributed 40 runs and three wickets but it was an exemplary team performance, with Salt and James Vince (56) contributing heavily and another dashing new-ball stint from the in-form Saqib Mahmood.

There were also five catches from wicketkeeper John Simpson, including one remarkable feat of anticipation.

And it did not go unnoticed by Morgan, who tweeted: “15 of the current squad in isolation. Buttler and Archer injured. What Ben Stokes and the team have achieved is incredible. Looking forward to watching the next game!”

Gregory knows that a ringing endorsement from the captain only goes so far, and the pecking order is unlikely to be scattered to the wind after a couple of results, but he has nevertheless enjoyed his time in the spotlight. For him, and several others involved here, it could well come again.

“It’s been really exciting,” said Gregory. “What’s gone on isn’t ideal but it has given us guys an opportunity to show what we’re capable of. But this England one-day team is difficult to break into. The guys who are in there are difficult to get ahead of.

“All we can do is put in a performance and put our hands up when the chance comes.”