EOIN MORGAN hailed Jos Buttler’s role in the series-clinching ODI victory over Australia and declared England’s performance the best of his captaincy.
Buttler was the star attraction with a middle-order masterclass of 100 not out in 83 balls, but captain Morgan was delighted with the entire tenor of his team’s 16-run success.
Jos anchored the innings until about the 40th over and then really did pull the trigger. To have a guy with his capabilities and talent in our team, we are very privileged.England captain Eoin Morgan
Having initially struggled on a tricky SCG surface England held their nerve to post 302-6, Chris Woakes’s unbeaten 53 providing a brilliant foil for Buttler as the pair piled on 102 in the last 10 overs.
They then overcame an injury to Liam Plunkett that deprived them of a key bowler and left Joe Root filling in for almost nine overs.
“I’m so proud of everyone in the team,” said Morgan, whose side claimed a 3-0 lead in the five-match series.
“It was, I think, our best performance as a group to date, definitely throughout the last two years.
“Throughout the game there were a lot of questions asked of us. It was a bit of a cat fight for quite a stage and Jos anchored the innings until about the 40th over and then really did pull the trigger.
“To have a guy with his capabilities and talent in our team, we are very privileged.
“We have seen him do that before, but against one of the best sides in the world it is great to watch. It was a huge contribution.”
Morgan’s leadership was tested when Plunkett left the field with a hamstring problem having bowled just eight balls, but in Root he found a willing stand-in and saw Woakes and Mark Wood shoulder the seam burden manfully.
“Liam going down (meant) somebody else stepping up,” he said.
“As a group, bowling unit and fielding unit, we did give a lot more than we normally do.”
Buttler echoed his captain’s enthusiasm and admitted his partnership with Woakes took England well beyond their most optimistic total.
“It was very special. One of the best wins we’ve ever had,” he said.
“We were thinking 270 or 280. Jonny Bairstow came back into the dressing room after he got out and said that 270 would be a really competitive score, so we were just trying to work towards that and give ourselves three overs to really take it on.
“Woakesy is playing so well at the minute, he probably went earlier than I did and played some fantastic shots.
“As a side that is how we want to play so we can’t have any fear. We’ve talked about doing that and we had to stay true to it.”
England have a rest day today, when Plunkett’s fitness will be assessed, before minds turn to Adelaide, Perth and a possible whitewash. Asked if the side would be allowed to toast their success after inheriting a midnight curfew from the Test leg of the tour, Morgan added: “We’ll get together as a group and if the families were here they would join us.
“We’re quite a tight unit and we’ll have a celebration.”
Buttler, whose middle-order masterclass included six fours and four sixes, was also involved in the key moment of the Australia innings, claiming a hotly-disputed catch to see off home captain Steve Smith.
England’s 16-run success was all the more remarkable given Plunkett’s untimely exit with a hamstring injury, leaving his side a bowler short with more than eight overs to fill.
Earlier, none of England’s top five batsmen had found any real fluency in Sydney after being sent in for the first time in the series, though Morgan (41) and Bairstow (39) chiselled out hard runs.
Root’s day had started with rugby league star Sam Burgess presenting his 100th ODI cap, a more memorable moment than any in his knock of 27. It was not until Buttler heaved Marcus Stoinis for the first six of the match in the 28th over that the balance began to shift. With a tidy 50 already under his belt Buttler began to dust down his party pieces, ramping Cummins over his own head for four then driving Hazlewood hard and flat for six.
That was the pivotal point, with Australia suddenly unable to keep a lid on Buttler. There was another flat six off Hazlewood, back-to-back fours off Starc and then 20 runs off four successive Cummins balls, two crashing into the ropes and two sailing over.
Woakes played his part to perfection, a short-arm pull for six the best among a handful of authoritative blows.