England captain Eoin Morgan lauded Chris Woakes' "brilliant" comeback in the last over in which the seamer sealed their five-run win in Kolkata to narrow the series margin to 2-1. India needed 16 runs off the last over then Kedar Jadhav swung for a six and a four on the first two balls of the over before Woakes came back with four dot balls, including Jadhav's wicket on the penultimate ball of the over.
"It was brilliant, even with the pressure when the first two balls went for boundaries," Morgan said. "He managed to get the bloke out and we're right back into the game. They still needed six off four balls. So a couple of good yorkers, a couple of singles, we were still favourites to win. Thankfully, the man at the boundary [Sam Billings] managed to get rid of him and I thought it was going to take something special to get them across the line with two new batsmen. Credit to Woakes he was there till the end."
Woakes had started the series with a stifling spell of 5-0-12-0 in Pune before shining as England's best bowler during the second ODI in Cuttack, reducing India to 25 for 3. On Sunday, he did not impress as much in the first few overs, taken for 11 in the first over, but his second spell lifted India's asking rate before he finished things off in the last over. Morgan said Woakes was not appreciated as much as he deserved to be.
"He's been incredible in all forms for the last two years, probably not so much in T20 but in 50 overs and Tests he has had an incredible two years," Morgan said. "People could be giving him a stick for not bowling fast enough, saying he can't bowl in Test matches because he's not fast enough, but he has been relentless. How he has worked and the results that have shown through have been outstanding. People say he doesn't get much acknowledgement but he certainly does in our group because we appreciate him for what he is."
England's first win of the tour was set up by a number of other players too. Jason Roy hit his third straight half-century, the recalled Jonny Bairstow made 56, and Ben Stokes produced an all-round show with an unbeaten 57 off 39 balls and the three wickets of Virat Kohli, Hardik Pandya and R Ashwin. Morgan said not giving Stokes the last over had nothing to do with him conceding four straight sixes to Carlos Brathwaite in the World T20 final last year at the same venue.
"I was actually thinking of bowling him two in a row and bowling him out because he bowled a great over and got the wicket of Pandya. Some days they work, some days they don't. The bowlers made everything we did today look really good, which they do all the time. It's great to see them bowl today and, compared to the first two games, there was lot of improvement which is very important. On top of a win, particularly given how damp it was, how wet the ball was, and playing against a strong side, I think it holds a lot of weight."
Stokes was pleased with playing a pivotal role in the result, confirming that winning at Eden Gardens had cleared "bad memories" of the World T20 final loss."This is just a win on its own terms, that was nine months ago, the memories of that have gone," Stokes said. "But, yeah, it's nice to come back here and get rid of bad memories of that game. As I said, it was another game of cricket to focus on and nice to get a win here."
Morgan also applauded the start the top order had been giving them in conditions that provided the seam bowlers with the most help of the series. Roy and Sam Billings, the latter who replaced the injured Alex Hales, added 98 for the first wicket and denied India early breakthroughs."For a bunch of sloggers we did well," Morgan said. "The guys at the top of the order, Roy and Sam, they were beaten a lot in the first ten overs, and we weren't sure what a good score would be, but I think after ten overs down we were 47 or 57 . It was a great start, they held their nerve, backed their strengths, things that we do as a batting unit, and it set up the innings really well for us."