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Phil Salt 'frustrated' after failing to seize his chance for leading role

England opener still waiting to cement his status in absence of top-order rivals

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
09-Mar-2023
Phil Salt drives through the covers at Chattogram  •  BCB

Phil Salt drives through the covers at Chattogram  •  BCB

Phil Salt conceded it was "frustrating" that he had once again fallen short of a match-defining innings, as Bangladesh bounced back from an inauspicious start to seal a comfortable six-wicket victory over England in the first T20I at Chattogram.
Salt's innings of 38 from 35 balls followed on from his 35 from 25 in last week's third ODI at the same venue, and continued a run of performances this winter in which he has passed fifty just once in 14 attempts - the exception being an outstanding innings of 88 not out from 41 balls against Pakistan in Lahore in September.
And if the quality of his ball-striking on that occasion showed the levels that Salt can achieve when his eye is in, he knows also that he needs to seize his opportunities on this tour of Bangladesh - particularly in the absence of so many top-order rivals - if he's to keep alive his hopes of featuring at the 50-over World Cup in India this winter.
"I've had four hits are here so far, and got two starts," Salt said, having made scores of 12 and 7 in the first two ODIs in Dhaka. "Those are the most frustrating ones for me, because you want to be the guy that goes on to win the game. That's the mark of a world-class player, someone who takes the game on by themselves and wins it. So, it's frustrating, but I know it's not far away."
For a time in Chattogram, however, both Salt and his captain, Jos Buttler, looked set to produce that definitive knock. While they were adding 80 runs in the first ten overs of the match, Bangladesh were braced for a 180-plus run-chase. However, their own bowlers battled back superbly in the second half of their innings, not least in claiming four wickets for 12 runs in 20 balls, including Ben Duckett and Buttler (67 from 42) either side of the 16th over.
"We know that we could have ended the innings better," Salt said. "In T20 cricket, when you lose wickets in successive balls it always hurts, having two new batters at the crease. But that's part of the game. On another day, we finish and get 180. Today we couldn't get that.
"The surface got a little bit better as the game went on, and the lights kicked in. The Bangladeshi team's knowledge of the conditions really gave them a step in the right direction today."
England's team selection raised some eyebrows at the toss, with four specialist batters and a glut of bowling options that enabled Buttler to rotate seven options with just one man, Moeen Ali, bowling his full allocation of four overs.
But the team balance was also forced on England by circumstance, with Jason Roy and James Vince departing the squad after the ODIs to play in the Pakistan Super League, and two other batting options, Tom Abell and Will Jacks, ruled out through injury. Alex Hales, a T20 World Cup-winner in Australia before Christmas, also opted out of this trip to play in the PSL.
As a consequence - and despite such proven T20 batters as Sam Curran and Moeen at Nos. 5 and 6 - there was an extra onus on England's top four to deliver the bulk of the runs, even though Salt insisted that the lack of conventional depth had not impacted on his approach to the game.
"A lot is about playing the same way, whatever is down below," he said. "Obviously, we are stocked with allrounders in that middle order, so you've got full faith in those guys. But ideally, you want one of the top four to be winning the game, every game."
Buttler did appear to be in the mood to be England's matchwinner. His hard-hitting half-century included four fours and four sixes, but aside from Salt himself, no one else in England's line-up managed to clear the ropes as Bangladesh turned the screw at the death.
"We've batted together now for a couple of years in the Hundred," Salt said of Buttler, his Manchester Originals and Lancashire team-mate. "So I know his game very well, and he knows mine. To be honest, he's probably one of my favourite opening partners. He's got so many different options, his skill level is so high.
"In white-ball cricket around the world at the moment, he is the benchmark with the bat. He is the best around, so I think everybody wants to emulate him."
The Chattogram match, remarkably, was the first time these two teams have met in a bilateral T20I, and only the second time in the format overall, after England's eight-wicket win at the T20 World Cup in 2021. And seeing as England's ODI series win last week had been the first by any visiting team since 2016-17, Salt insisted that they had not taken their opponents lightly.
"We respect everybody," he said. "We know how good Bangladesh are in in their own country, the numbers don't lie on that front, so no, full respect to Bangladesh. These guys play very well in their home conditions and, without knowing the surface and the conditions, it's tough. They'll be sitting in that dressing-room right now, thinking that's as close to a perfect chase as they'd have."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket