Phil Salt: Sussex Blast final loss still stings - we want to go one better this year
"It stings - even now,” says Phil Salt as he remembers the day when Sussex Sharks were the Vitality Blast bridesmaids.
He is talking about Finals Day at Edgbaston in 2018 when Luke Wright’s men beat Somerset in the semi-final and looked in with a good chance to beat Worcestershire in the final, only to lose by five wickets as they failed to build on reducing Moeen Ali’s team to 90 for four in pursuit of 158.
"Finals Day is fabulous but losing in the final isn’t,” says Salt. “You want to win that trophy and it hurts when you get so close. And after going out in the quarter-finals in the past two years, we’d love to get back to Finals Day and win it this year. That’s what we’ll be going all out to do.
“As cricketers, you want to win as many games as you can and win trophies, that’s the goal.”
With Salt opening the innings they surely have a chance. The 24-year-old has established himself as a big-hitting batsman who has the presence and ability to be the Sharks’ talisman in recent seasons. Often, if he fires, Sussex fire - and his displays have earned him contracts with the likes of Adelaide Strikers in Australia’s Big Bash and Islamabad United in the Pakistan Super League. He’s also been knocking on the door of England’s white-ball squad for a while, and hopes a good 2021 will see it opened.
He has had a good start to this year's campaign with the Sharks - though they have been somewhat derailed, after three wins in their opening trio of games, by four washouts and a home defeat to Gloucestershire. Their schedule resumes when Kent visit Hove - weather allowing - on Tuesday evening.
“T20 is my favourite format of the game,” he says. “There’s nothing better than scoring runs or performing well in a high-pressure situation. It’s the most pressure in a short space of time, T20. In the four-day game, batting long is very rewarding but in the Blast you go out and the pressure’s on from ball one.”
Salt, who made his Sussex debut in 2015, often hits out from the first ball of the innings and will continue to do so. “It’s a format that‘s never risk-free. But it’s calculated risks you have to take, and think on your feet.”
The batsman would be many people’s pick as the Sharks’ key man this summer - though there are plenty of options - but the man himself pinpoints one batsman he thinks can really inspire the side to glory.
Ravi Bopara scored his maiden Sharks 50 against Hampshire Hawks in the team's opening home game of this year's Vitality Blast
“From our batting line-up I’d pick out Ravi Bopara. I’ve watched him for years and years - he’s been a top performer for years for Essex and England and in franchise cricket. He’s a thinker about the game and I love talking to him about it,” Salt enthuses.
Salt’s T20 experience has grown massively each year, thanks in no small part to his spell in the Australian and Pakistan competitions.
“They’re fantastic to play in,” Salt says. “It’s the same game in approach, really. It’s so important to come out with intent to take the game on, though different conditions dictate exactly what you can do. The batting in the PSL is top-drawer, while the Big Bash has more good wickets, I’d say.”
He played in both last winter, although admits Covid restrictions and being away from home in lockdown was challenging. He didn’t hit top form - and then a nasty foot injury in a cycling accident in March put paid to his plans for a run-laden start to the English season. But the fact he is over the injury nicely in time for the Blast is a huge boost to him and the Sharks - and is surely bad news for Sussex’s South Group opponents.