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Phil Salt savours Barbados homecoming despite England defeat

Fifty on T20I debut as new boy embraces England's winning mentality

Harry Brook, Phil Salt and George Garton were handed their T20I caps, West Indies vs England, Kensington Oval, Barbados, 3rd T20I, January 26, 2022

Harry Brook, Phil Salt and George Garton were all making their T20I debuts in Barbados  •  Getty Images

Phil Salt says there was plenty for him to savour despite finishing on the wrong end of a high-scoring defeat in the third T20I in Barbados, after marking his debut in the format with a hard-hitting half-century, on the island where he spent six of his formative years.
Salt's 57 from 24 balls carried England's challenge almost as deep as West Indies' own run-chase had gone in their one-run defeat on Sunday, particularly when he struck consecutive sixes in Romario Shepherd's final over, to briefly keep pace with a requirement that had spiralled to 36 runs from the six remaining deliveries.
However, his efforts - coupled with Tom Banton's earlier score of 73 from 39 balls - were unable to match Rovman Powell's exceptional 51-ball hundred, after he and Nicholas Pooran (70 from 43) had added 122 for the third wicket to lift West Indies to an imposing 224 for 5, their highest total against England, and their third-highest of all time.
Even so, having lived in Barbados for six years from the ages of nine to 15, and having watched a number of England's matches at Bridgetown in that time - including their T20 World Cup final win over Australia in 2010 - he admitted the feeling of being the other side of the fence on this occasion had been a memorable one.
"It was very cool to play here, it's a ground that I've watched England play on so many times," Salt said. "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.
"I know it's not capacity, but the atmosphere is always good in this part of the world," Salt added, with 50% crowds at this series due to Covid protocols. "Bajans love their cricket and love supporting the West Indies. And the English are exactly the same, so that's always going to make for a good atmosphere."
Salt made an emergency England debut in last summer's ODI series against Pakistan, opening the batting under the captaincy of Ben Stokes after England's original squad had been sidelined by a Covid outbreak. And there was similar upheaval in the ranks on this occasion, with Moeen Ali taking charge of an England team with five changes, including two other debutants in George Garton and Harry Brook, after Eoin Morgan and Sam Billings were both ruled out.
"I knew [Wednesday] morning around midday that I was in," Salt said, after Billings - who had completed a 15,000km, four-flight journey from Hobart to Bridgetown prior to the first match - was omitted. "I think Bilbo didn't pull up the greatest, recovery-wise, after the last couple of games. So that's when I knew."
Salt had an unfamiliar position in the side too, coming in at No. 6 instead of opening - the first time he had batted that low in a T20 game. But, given his reputation as a player who can go full-throttle from the first ball, Salt said he had not been daunted by the task at hand, adding that the can-do mentality of Eoin Morgan's No.1-ranked squad had dictated his approach from the outset.
Asked what was on his mind as he arrived at the crease at 107 for 4 in the 12th over, 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 one I enjoy doing," he added. "The game is always in front of you when you come in and are chasing, you know exactly what you need to do."
Salt had to wait nearly ten minutes to face his first delivery after arriving at the non-striker's end, but nearly reached the boundary with his first shot through midwicket, and struck three fours and five sixes all told.
"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," he said of his hitting ability. "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."