Salt and Bairstow take West Indies down with ease


England 181 for 2 (Salt 87*, Bairstow 48*) beat West Indies 180 for 4 (Charles 38, Powell 36, Rashid 1-21) by eight wickets

A devastating 87 not out from Phil Salt, supplemented by an unbeaten 48 from Jonny Bairstow, saw England thrash West Indies by eight wickets in St Lucia. It was the kind of performance that set down a marker for the rest of the teams in the Super Eight of the T20 World Cup 2024.

The defending champions made light work of their target of 181, with a clinical 97-run stand between Salt and Bairstow earning victory with 15 deliveries to spare.

Played out on a fine batting deck at the Daren Sammy National Stadium, Jos Buttler opted to chase at the toss. Things looked precarious after eight overs, with West Indies getting 72 on the board for the loss of just Brandon King, who collapsed with a side strain early in the fifth over, having scored 23 off his previous 12 deliveries.

A diet of spin restricted West Indies’ batters thanks to Adil Rashid – the pick of the bowlers with 1 for 21 from his four overs – and Moeen Ali, who would go on to remove Johnson Charles.

Rovman Powell, promoting himself to No. 4, took 20 from the 15th over, striking Liam Livingstone for three sixes down the ground in four deliveries. But an attempt at a fourth off Livingstone’s final ball brought his downfall, caught low at short third by Mark Wood, returning to the XI in place of Chris Jordan.

It was the first of three wickets to fall in the space of 12 deliveries for just six runs. Jofra Archer removed Nicholas Pooran caught behind in the next over, before Andre Russell nailed a Rashid googly straight to wide long on.

That West Indies were able to reach 180 without any further loss from a position of 143 for 4 with three overs to go owes as much to Sherfane Rutherford as it does to Wood. The former was able to find 28 from 15 deliveries, 13 of them off the latter as the 18th over was taken for 19.

England’s pursuit began steadily enough, reaching 58 for no loss after six overs. Roston Chase’s flat delivery eventually ended the opening stand on 67, trapping Buttler in front, before Moeen came and went, batting at No. 3 for the first time since March 2023.

Salt remained, and though he did end up slowing down, Bairstow was on hand to pick up the slack, striking 46 off 21 up to the 16th over. It was then that Salt tagged back in, and unfurled a brutal attack on Romario Shepherd, striking the seamer for 30 with three fours and three sixes – the joint-most expensive over by a West Indian in a T20 World Cup.

The first of those boundaries brought up Salt’s half-century from 38 deliveries, before he skewered any remaining jeopardy. It left West Indies to rue a half chance to remove Salt on seven in the third over, when he toed a hack across the line through to Pooran, who could not hold on.

Bairstow clicks himself, and Salt, into gear

Salt deserved the Player-of-the-Match award. But without Bairstow’s help, he – and maybe even England – might not have had something to celebrate.

Salt had emerged from the powerplay with a respectable 35 off 20. But with the field spread, twirlers working in tandem and less of the strike, he had stalled. Going into the 14th over, he had scored just 12 more from 15 deliveries.

That was when Bairstow set about a jump-start. For some reason, Powell returned to Alzarri Joseph instead of persisting with the frugal Chase. Bairstow used the pace on the ball to send the first delivery over the deep midwicket fence – the longer side, no less – before ramping the next delivery for four.

Powell attempted to correct his error by bringing Akeal Hosein back on for his final over. Bairstow, though, was in an unforgiving mood. An attempted reverse sweep brought a subdued lbw appeal before a conventional sweep, a 76-metre six heaved into the stands at midwicket, and a fortuitous inside edge brought 14 from three deliveries. The 16 from the over outright made it Hosein’s most expensive of this World Cup.

It was at that point, with 40 needed from 30, that Salt set about his assault on Shepherd. Bairstow watched on from the other end, settling into the role of cheerleader as his partner went ballistic. He eventually had the honour of striking the winning run, raising his personal best at T20 World Cups to 48 not out.

“Once Jos got out, I had to be the better to bat through,” explained Salt. “For Jonny to come out and take the pressure off me by taking calculated risks. I couldn’t be happier about that as a teammate.”

Windies given the run around

Intent comes in many different forms. England blitzed the six-count on the tournament’s truest batting pitch, but the difference between the running out in the middle told as true a story.

West Indies, for all their might, set a new unwanted record of 51 dot balls – the most any team has registered in a T20 World Cup when posting a score of at least 180. They were also responsible for the previous highest – 50 – in the 2016 edition, albeit when they chased down 193 to take down India in the semi-final on their way to their second title.

Moreover, they were second-best when making use of this ground’s lop-sided dimensions, failing to rotate the strike as much as they could, and running just nine twos across their 120 deliveries. Not only did England run three more in 15 fewer deliveries, but they even managed a three in the fourth over when Buttler could not quite time a cut to the cover point sponge. It brought Salt on strike for the final ball of the over, which he used to get going by charging at Russell and launching him back over his head and onto the roof for the first of five sixes.

Archer glee

At the time, the purchasing of Powell’s wicket for 20 runs from Livingstone’s only over did not seem a smart deal. Powell was only averaging 16.25 coming into this match. Having cooled a partisan St Lucian crowd, watching their captain hoist three quick sixes was a surefire way to get them warmed up for the arrival of Russell to assist Pooran, who was set on 32.

Both were back in the hut 11 deliveries later. And while Rashid’s snaring of Russell was the icing on the cake in this little stanza that shifted the match England’s way, it was Archer’s in the 17th over that vindicated Buttler’s investment.

Over the wicket to Pooran, Archer hammered a tight line across the left-hander. Ranging from full and yorker length, barring one misstep – a full toss third ball which Pooran guided through point for four – Archer had it all his own way.

He was too sharp – consistently around the 90mph mark – and too unwavering for a batter slowly falling into a funk, desperate for room to access his favoured hitting zones down the ground. The least full of all the deliveries was the one that took the edge through to Buttler, Pooran presenting the face of the bat in defeat rather than defiance.

With six wickets, Archer is now England’s joint top wicket-taker alongside Rashid, boasting an economy rate of 6.58, which is lower than any of his teammates barring Reece Topley (5.50), who has played two fewer games and is still yet to register a dismissal.

But the best stat of all is that Archer has now turned out five times for England in the last 15 days. The previous five caps came in the space of 448 days. After the nightmare run of elbow and back injuries over the last two years, the 29-year-old may finally be out the other end.

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo

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