Last-minute man Phil Salt: CPL win was 'one of the best days of my life'
The day before the Caribbean Premier League final, Barbados Tridents realised that the hamstring JP Duminy had tweaked in Qualifier 2 wasn't going to heal in time to play.
Phil Salt, the Sussex batsman on the fringes of the England squad, got a phone call from his agent while holidaying in Miami. "Can you get to the airport for 7 o'clock tonight?" Just over 24 hours later, Salt was celebrating his first major T20 trophy in the dressing room.
"It's been a belting week", Salt told ESPNcricinfo from Tampa, the next stop on his North American holiday. "It had been on my radar from the day before, but I thought it was something like a ten per cent chance I'd be going.
"I actually flew in with the owners - they're based in Dallas - got there, had a night in the hotel, and met up with the boys in the morning. We had the team meeting at 2.00, the bus left at 2.30 and we were straight into the game."
For Salt, the occasion was made all the more special due to his link with Barbados. After growing up in North Wales, he moved to Barbados as a child for his formative years - he famously once 'took' Sir Garry Sobers' Indian takeaway by mistake - and had grown up playing age-group cricket with plenty of his team-mates on Saturday night.
"A lot of the boys are old friends so it was good to see them again… Roshon Primus, Justin Greaves. I'd come across Jason Holder - he was a few years older than me, but I always used to see him at Wanderers Cricket Club practice. And then Shai Hope was the year above me, but I used to play with him as well… it's sort of the whole squad that in some way or another I'd had something to do with."
Salt's kit was printed at the last minute - as evidenced by his name and number being printed in a different font and colour to the rest of the side - and he borrowed a bat off Raymon Reifer. To most it would be unsettling, but Salt shrugged it off: "I find it quite easy to roll with the punches and get on with it."
Coming in at 43 for 1 in the sixth over, Salt found mid-on and mid-off off his first two balls, and was hit on the forearm by a Ben Laughlin slower-ball bouncer facing his third - but to the general disbelief of the whole ground, umpire Gregory Brathwaite raised his finger.
"I couldn't quite believe it. I was so far away from it! I was like - hang on a minute, I could really kick off here. But then I thought, you know what, there's nothing I can do - I've just got to accept a poor decision and move on."
In the end, it mattered little: after Jonathan Carter's late salvo and a disciplined bowling effort, the Tridents eased to a 27-run win, and Salt soon had his hands on the trophy.
"The celebrations were great," he said. "We had a good chat among the group. I came into it quite late, but talking to the guys over a couple of beers, they'd been through quite a lot - they'd struggled at the start of the comp, and hadn't played their best cricket. But they came together as a team and built up that momentum - I felt lucky to be a part of it. It was one of the best days of my life."
Salt resumed his holiday after another day's layover, and the T10 league is next on his agenda before a Big Bash League stint at the Adelaide Strikers. He was "pretty disappointed" to miss out on England's T20I squad to go to New Zealand, having received his maiden call-up for the one-off game against Pakistan at the start of the summer, but is confident that he can press his case with a good winter.
"When I got the call from [England selector] James Taylor, I thought he was going to tell me that I was in [the squad]. It's a strong one that they've picked, and I'm sure they'll do really well out there. He just said that I was really close but didn't make it this time. Every game of cricket I play now, I'm just trying to do my best and perform."