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The Welshman who grew up in Barbados giving England hope after binfire World Cup

Phil Salt went unsold in the IPL auction but his form is one of the few reasons for festive cheer in the England camp

It’s easy to forget Phil Salt is already a World Cup winner having been parachuted into England’s team from the semi-finals of last year’s successful T20 campaign in Australia.

Yet his performances over the past few days in the Caribbean indicate he will have a much bigger role to play when Jos Buttler’s team defend their title in the West Indies and USA this coming summer.

From the dumpster fire of England’s white-ball winter that included a shocking defence of their ODI world crown in India, flames of hope are now flickering. It follows two standout performances in Grenada and, on Tuesday night, Trinidad that have seen them draw level from 2-0 down in their five-match series against the West Indies.

Victory in Thursday’s night’s series decider would allow this group of players and under-fire coach Matthew Mott to leave the Caribbean with confidence restored and hope in their hearts as they look towards the World Cup in June.

Salt has been integral to this turnaround, a player who was overlooked for the 50-over World Cup in India hitting back-to-back centuries in the past two T20s to show just why he cannot be left out when it comes to the main event in the summer.

Remarkably, Salt went unsold in Tuesday’s Indian Premier League auction despite a modest reserve price of £157,000 and a promising first campaign for Delhi Capitals last year.

Motivated from a snub Salt admitted was “confusing”, the 27-year-old tore into the West Indies attack in Trinidad hours later to smash 119, the highest-ever international T20 innings from an Englishman, and set up England’s record total – 267 for three.

West Indies gave the chase a good go but they were never likely to overhaul such a mammoth total. This felt like England had returned to their best form with the bat after a torrid winter.

Salt 57-ball whirlwind of an innings that included seven fours and 10 sixes came just three days after he had bludgeoned his maiden international century in Grenada, a knock that set up a victory that gave England a foothold in the series.

Afterwards, Salt indicated his IPL slight was a significant motivation. “It was probably a little bit of it, subconsciously,” he said.

“It was a confusing morning. I expected to be picked up, having gone there last year and done well and after the year that I’ve had, but these things happen. It’s part of the lottery of an auction. There’s a few lads in our dressing room who are going to have a very good Christmas and I’m over the moon for them.

“I was a bit confused but it can happen. There’s no bad cricketers on the list at the IPL. It’s one of those things.”

Salt may well be picked up at a later date as a replacement player by one of the IPL franchises if a star batter goes down with injury. He will be playing for Pretoria capitals in the South African T20 competition in the new year, but his most important target will be next summer’s T20 World Cup.

Salt is set for a bigger role than he had in Australia last year, when he came into the team as an injury replacement for Dawid Malan for the semi-final against India at Adelaide.

Such was England’s dominance in that match – Buttler and Alex Hales knocking off a target of 169 in 16 overs – Salt was unused at No3.

He did bat in the final, making 10 in nine balls in a low-scoring thriller where England needed Ben Stokes’ genius to get over the line in their run chase against Pakistan in Melbourne.

But rather than an afterthought, Salt has surely guaranteed his place at the top of the order alongside Buttler for this summer’s World Cup.

Born in North Wales, Salt spent his formative years in the West Indies, living in Barbados between the age of nine and 15 after his father, Chris, a property developer, moved the family out to the Caribbean. He has struck up a rapport with Buttler, too, at the top of the order at Lancashire and Manchester Originals in the Hundred.

Allied to his recent spectacular form, it seems as if the stars have aligned for Salt to play a major role in next summer’s World Cup in a part of the world he knows well.

The fact he took the wicketkeeping gloves on Tuesday seemed significant as well. It’s long been suspected Buttler should be relieved of the gloves to help his captaincy. Salt had a tough night behind the stumps but the fact he can do the job is another string to his bow.

His presence in the T20 XI creates an issue when it comes to fitting in Jonny Bairstow, rested for this tour, in the summer. Bairstow is one of England’s greatest white-ball openers and another player who can keep wicket instead of Buttler.

But given Salt’s rise, it seems his only way back will be as a No 3 instead of Will Jacks.

It’s a selection poser England will be happy to have.

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