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England captain Ben Stokes claimed the feeling of elation as he and Jonny Bairstow conjured one of the most outrageous chases in Test history was even better than his Ashes miracle at Headingley or his World Cup final heroics.
New Zealand were in control after posting a huge first-innings score of 553 in the second LV= Insurance Test at Trent Bridge, but left the field on day five battered and bruised after England roared to a truly remarkable five-wicket victory.
England had left themselves needing 299 in 72 overs and looked to be coming unstuck when Stokes and Bairstow came together at 93 for four.
What followed was a counter-attacking blitz to rival anything that has come before, with Bairstow unloading a 77-ball century and finishing with 136 in 92 balls.
He shared a stunning stand of 179 with Stokes, who went on to wrap up the result – and the series – with an unbeaten 75 from 70 deliveries.
Incredibly, he hit the winning runs off the last ball of the 50th over having turned a tense situation into a walkover.
Stokes knows better than anyone what it is like to be in the thick of a history-making performance, having dragged England over the line in nerve-shredding fashion in the 2019 World Cup final and then led a record red-ball chase against Australia just a few weeks later in Leeds.
And for him, this was the best yet.
“Yes, it is. That blows away Headingley, it blows away Lord’s and the World Cup final. It was incredible,” he said.
“I’m struggling to find the words for what we witnessed out there, it was just phenomenal. I just can’t quite wrap my head around how we’ve chased 299 with 22 overs left on day five of the Test match when we had to bowl 15 overs this morning.
“That is never going to happen again, but if it does, it is probably us who are going to do it.
“With this group of players the sky is the limit, but we could probably go further than that.”
Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum have been preaching a positive message ever since they were appointed at the start of the summer, but the nature of this success provided definitive substance.
The men at the top have been talking the talk and a team who seemed down on their luck after a dreadful winter in Australia and the West Indies are already walking the walk.
“I’ll say it quite simply, we were either winning this game or losing it,” he said, confirming that a timid draw was never on the menu.
“The message just was run into the fear of what the game was rather than stand still or back away from it. When you have the backing of the coach and myself saying what we say, you’re not fearing failure.
“This Test match will probably all be about this last day but you don’t win Test matches in the last session of day five without all the hard work you put in on the first four.”
Stokes paid tribute to hosts Nottinghamshire, who made the decision late on the fourth evening to offer free admission to watch the final day and drew a capacity crowd that roared the team to victory.
It was an astute decision that saw the stands filled with fans, who did their bit to raise the sense of occasion.
Stokes added: “A lot of credit has to go to Notts for what they did today. Having a full house here at Trent Bridge really does help the atmosphere.
“You can really feel the home crowd and it makes the opposition feel like the whole world is on top of them. If we had a half-full stadium today, it wouldn’t have felt like it did out there. It was really to play it out with a full crowd.
“It would have been hard for people not to enjoy what they have witnessed here.”