Ben Stokes accepts his match-winning innings for England against Australia in the third Test at Headingley will count for little unless they win back the Ashes.
The all-rounder shone in England’s dramatic one-wicket victory, scoring a brilliant 135 not out as Joe Root’s side chased down 359.
Australia would have retained the urn had they triumphed in Leeds, but Stokes’ exceptional knock means the series is all square ahead of next week’s fourth Test at Old Trafford.
Stokes told Sky Sports News: “I don’t think it has completely sunk in yet and the main reason for that is we have two games to go.
“It was an amazing week in Headingley and something that will be very hard to forget, but we still have a long way to go.
“If we don’t get the Ashes back what will it feel like? I will only take real satisfaction from the innings if we win back the Ashes.”
So Jack, how did you tie the scores at Headingley?— England's Barmy Army (@TheBarmyArmy) August 27, 2019
Stokes praised the contribution of England’s last man and new cult hero Jack Leach, who faced 17 deliveries for his one run at Headingley.
The pair put on 74 in the space of an hour to frustrate Australia, who had bowled the hosts out for 67 in the first innings.
“It was a pretty iconic picture, Jack Leach cleaning his glasses after every ball and the video of him running down the pitch has gone viral as well,” Stokes added.
“He has to take a lot of credit from the game because the 17 balls he faced are probably the most crucial he will ever face in his career.
“We knew how much time we had left in the innings and we were fully prepared to take it into day five because we didn’t have any scoreboard pressure.”
The 28-year-old says England go into the fourth Test with a huge amount of belief after snatching victory from the jaws of defeat on Sunday.
Tim Paine’s Australia may still be reeling, though, after coming so close to retaining the urn they hold after winning the 2017-18 series 4-0.
Stokes believes the Australians probably felt they had the match wrapped up when Stuart Broad was out lbw to leave England on 286 for nine.
But with the Headingley crowd on their feet – and at certain stages with their shoes off in a tribute to chant to Stokes – the Durham man delivered with eight sixes and 11 hours in his knock of 135 off 219 balls.
He said: “The crowd were so, so loud and they were during the whole four days. We have an amazing support and I didn’t get told until after about everyone taking their shoes off, but they are your 12th man.
“Momentum is huge in sport and I’m 100 per cent sure when Stuart Broad got out Australia would have thought they will have the Ashes by the end of the day, so we go into the next match with a lot of confidence.
“I think we are very aware as a team and as players that we have a responsibility to inspire the next generation of cricketers.
“What we did in the first half of the summer (win the World Cup) helped us to do that and if we win the Ashes hopefully it will help produce more cricketers out of England over the next 20 years.”
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