Ashes-saving ton right up there with World Cup win: Ben Stokes
Leeds, Aug 25: For England all-rounder Ben Stokes, his masterclass unbeaten 135 that helped his side win the third Ashes Test at Headingley on Sunday by one wicket to level the series 1-1 was right up there with his World Cup final heroics.
Chasing a daunting 359 for victory after being shot out for 67 in the first innings, England were 286/9 with 73 runs still remaining when Stokes was joined by last man Jack Leach. The pair put on a stand of 76 in 10.2 overs as the hosts scripted the second-highest successful run chase in Test cricket on English soil and the joint fifth overall.
"It was unbelievable and something I will never forget. I've got to take it all in. I'm not sure it will ever happen again. It's in the top two feelings I have ever had on a cricket field," Stokes told Sky TV.
"It is right up there (with the World Cup win). We had to win this game and we managed to do it," said the all-rounder who smashed an unbeaten 84 in the World Cup final one and a half months ago against New Zealand at Lord's. England won that match for hitting more boundaries after the match, as well as the Super Over, ended in a tie.
"We have to move on to the next game (at Old Trafford from September 4) having managed to keep our hopes alive of doing the double. We have the momentum. (I love) being part of those challenges you get faced with -- we are playing at the highest level and you don't expect anything else," Stokes said.
"There is nothing better than being there at the end and getting your team over the line. (Sunday) has been incredible," said an emotional Stokes who also bowled superbly in the second innings of the epic contest, picking up three wickets.
Stokes said he never stopped believing that England could cross the line. "Never give up. It's never over until it's over. When Leachy (Jack Leach) came in, it was pretty clear what needed to be done. I was saying 'I'll take five balls and you take one'.
"Leachy has done it before -- he was the super nightwatchman who got 92 (against Ireland at Lord's in July), so I backed him and knew that he had the desire to keep the ball out. I wasn't nervous until we needed single figures but I couldn't watch at the end -- I was just waiting to see what happened," he said.
"They are probably the most crucial balls Jack is going to face in his Test career, so credit to him for doing that in a high-pressure situation. When it got down into the 20s, I thought I could rein it in a little but when it was up at fifties, sixties, seventies I thought I really had to go.
"I was so in the zone of what I had to do. Time wasn't an issue at the start of the day -- if it was going to take us until Monday to get the runs, we were fully prepared to do that," Stoke was quoted as saying by skysports.