Phil Salt on fast track behind trailblazer Jason Roy

England's rookie opener cites influence of "destructive" senior batter

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Phil Salt celebrates his maiden ODI hundred  •  Getty Images

Phil Salt celebrates his maiden ODI hundred  •  Getty Images

Jason Roy will win his 100th ODI cap in Amstelveen on Sunday and there is no clearer embodiment of his influence on a generation of English white-ball batters than his opening partner in this series.
Phil Salt, who hit his first international hundred in the first of three ODIs between England and the Netherlands on Friday, was 18 when Roy broke into the England side seven years ago and has clearly taken after him in his approach. "He's very much in the Jason Roy mould," Jos Buttler said after Friday's game, with a grin of approval.
Roy's ODI average has hovered around 40 but it is his strike rate (107.08 across his career and second only to his regular opening partner Jonny Bairstow) that sets him apart. Eoin Morgan has always valued Roy's selflessness and his willingness to attack in the powerplay, taking risks against two new balls in order to get England off to fast starts; three key innings in a row when returning to the side in the 2019 World Cup underlined his worth.
Salt's own attacking intent was evident on Friday as he raced to 38 off 29 balls inside the powerplay, despite Roy's early dismissal (bowled through the gate by his cousin, Shane Snater). Salt was given a life on 40 when Snater shelled a chance at deep point, but never looked back from there.
He punched the air and kissed the England badge on his helmet when he reached three figures and eventually fell for 122 off 93 after an innings which showed his dominance down the ground, particularly with an early punch past the bowler straight out of Roy's playbook.
"J-Roy has definitely been an influence," Salt said. "I'm lucky to have people like that around who are willing to give up their time and have those chats and want to see you do well. I love chatting the game through with J-Roy because he's so clear and so destructive in what he does.
"Morgy has been very clear with how he expects people to play if they want to be in an England shirt and that's something that I've bought into from day one of being around this team. It's pretty self-explanatory what you need to do if you want to play for England. He sets the goalposts very clearly."
Salt's inclusion in this squad was a significant vote of confidence from the new England hierarchy: he was the only player from No. 1-8 on Friday without some kind of central contract (Liam Livingstone has an incremental deal) and was picked ahead of James Vince, Sam Billings, Tom Banton and any number of other young batters.
He has shown his versatility in his fledgling England career, hitting a 22-ball 50 from No. 6 on his T20I debut, and hopes that his performances can help him become an obvious choice as the 'spare' batter in a full-strength squad, as well as the first reserve in case Roy or Bairstow is unavailable.
"I've only had three ODIs before this, against Pakistan, and there were some players who played well in that series who missed out," he said. "So to be on this trip, I'm very grateful for that. Hopefully I can keep performing and proving them [the interim selectors] right.
"Every time you put on an England shirt is an honour so I want to keep doing that. It's as simple as knowing that when I get the opportunity, I've got to perform and I've got to do well: that's how it's going to work if you want to have a long England career. If I can keep doing stuff like that and keep putting my name in the hat, hopefully I will give the selectors a headache."
Roy's own place has come under threat at various points in his ODI career, most obviously in 2017 when he was dropped during the Champions Trophy, but he has generally responded emphatically. He has had a few quiet months, taking a break from the game after his mysterious ban for an undisclosed misdemeanour which has still not come to light.
He will not be concerned about the prospect of Salt overtaking him in the pecking order just yet: he has a huge bank of work behind him and is a senior player in England's group, and this series, squeezed into a week between two Tests, is typical of the schedule over the next nine months (they are set to tour five different countries over the winter). It will be impossible - in some cases, logistically as well as realistically - for multi-format players like Bairstow to play every game, so strength in depth will be key.
Roy's greatest legacy is that there will come a time when the generation of young English openers that he inspired are so good that he is no longer needed. But for now, that moment lies somewhere in the middle-distance.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98