England are turning to the powerful pair of Salt and Jacks to lead their new opening strategy.
England reached the Caribbean after a draining World Cup, hoping to find motivation and signs of progress in a newly planted garden. In the opening hour of their first match, Phil Salt and Will Jacks successfully achieved this goal by scoring 77 runs together, building on their strong start to international play. They continued their success in the second match with a score of 50.
It is still the beginning for England’s fresh opening duo, even though they previously played together for Pretoria Capitals in last year’s SA20. They were the top two scorers for their team. Salt has already praised Jacks as “potentially the greatest partner I have ever batted with in white-ball cricket.”
The initial signs are positive: in four games batting at the top of the order, they have never scored less than 50 runs or more than 87. Among all English pairs who have opened more than two innings, only Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen averaged higher than their 67.25 in four games together in 2012. Their run rate of 9.84 per over is also exceptional, with the next best in the history of the format being Sherwin Campbell and Brian Lara’s average of 8.10 in four games for West Indies in 1999.
The success of early aggression in the game can be largely attributed to Salt, who has been displaying it consistently. Salt acknowledges that the responsibility falls on him to face the first few balls and from there, it’s all about communication, adapting to the conditions, and understanding the bowler’s preference for the surface. Both players aim to make a strong start. Salt believes that his unique skills allow him to make a quick start on pitches in the Caribbean, using the bounce to hit through the off side. In comparison, Jacksy tends to focus more on the leg side. Batting with him is enjoyable as they have a good understanding of each other’s strengths.
“We are pleased to have achieved four consecutive partnerships of 50 or more at the top. Our strategies seem to be effective. However, we have yet to fully capitalize on this and dominate beyond the powerplay. When we do, it will surely be entertaining to witness. As we continue to play, we aim to strike a balance between being aggressive and maintaining solid shots, while also being able to adjust our pace.”
Out of England’s last 146 one-day-internationals, which date back to 2015, two of Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Alex Hales and Dawid Malan have consistently opened the batting, leading the team through a successful era of white-ball cricket. In 141 of those games, at least one of the four mentioned players has opened, with the exception being one game in Bangladesh in 2016. This marks a significant change in direction, as it is the first time in many years that a batter outside of this quartet has been given the opportunity to establish themselves at the top of the batting order without feeling like a temporary replacement.
Salt expressed that this has been a consistent factor in recent years, but he believes it is currently evolving. He has faced challenges with his role in the team, constantly moving up and down the batting order and taking on various responsibilities, all while striving to give his best performance. There were times when he felt like he could have excelled in any position and still not been selected for the team. However, he acknowledges that the players who have been consistently supported and given opportunities have ultimately achieved good results. This principle applies in all sports, where players who are consistently backed tend to perform better over time. He has learned to accept this and move forward, knowing that his chance to shine may come later on. And now, that opportunity has finally arrived.
It is probable that England will remain committed to the same group of players who won the second match and controlled most of the first, as they aim to secure the series victory on Saturday. Jofra Archer, who has been recovering from an elbow injury in Barbados, joined the team for training on the day before the game. The squad will also be bolstered on Friday night by the addition of Moeen Ali, Tymal Mills, Adil Rashid, and Chris Woakes, ahead of the upcoming Twenty20 series which begins on Tuesday.