Ben Stokes said that the winning boundary in his remarkable, unbeaten innings of 135 to seal a dramatic third Ashes Test at Headingley was one of the “top two feelings I’ve ever had on a cricket field”, alongside the Super Over finale in the World Cup final last month.

England needed 73 to win when Stokes was joined by last man Jack Leach, but the pair put on a stand of 76 in 10.2 overs – of which Leach contributed an unbeaten 1 off 17 balls – to seal the unlikeliest of victories.

“It probably matches the World Cup, to be honest,” Stokes told Sky. “Unbelievable, it’s one I’ll never forget. I’m not sure that’ll ever happen again. I just had to try to take it all in. It’s never over until it’s over.

“When Leachy came in it was pretty clear what had to be done,” he said. “[I was] just saying ‘five and one’ – I’ll take five [balls] and you take one. There were a couple of times I thought we were getting two but it was only one, but Leachy’s done it before. He’s a super nightwatchman, he’s got a 92, and I backed him knowing what he had to do. I couldn’t watch at the end, I was just waiting to see what happened.

“When it got down to 20 [runs required], I started thinking I could rein it in a little bit, but when it was 70s, 60s, 50s I thought I had to really try and go. I was so in the zone as to what I had to do.”

Stokes’ innings came despite a minor injury in his back leg. “I twanged my glute a little bit,” he said. “I was a little bit heavy-legged, but when you’re out there in the middle and you know what’s on the line, adrenaline keeps you going.”

“We had to win this game to stay in the Ashes. We’ve managed to do it, we’ve got to move on to the next game, we’ve managed to keep our hopes alive of doing the double, and we’re going to take a lot of momentum in. It’s nice that we’ve got a bit of a break to recharge our batteries and hopefully hit the ground running again in Manchester.”

Leach planted a kiss on his batting partner’s cheek, and Stokes paid tribute to his innings. “Credit to Jack to be out there and able to do that in such a high-profile situation. That was the best kiss I’ve ever had.”

Tim Paine, Australia’s captain, said the defeat was “hard to take” but admitted “you’ve got to tip your hat sometimes. Ben Stokes played an unbelievable innings. It’s probably the best Test innings I’ve seen, and the rest of the team thought the same thing.”

Stokes’ captain Joe Root described the innings as “outrageous”.

“We had to call upon all of that in the World Cup,” Root said. “To stay as calm and composed as he did showed great skill, courage, and belief in his own ability. He deserves all the plaudits and adulation that he gets given.”

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