CUMBRIAN Ben Stokes played one of the best innings ever seen as his unbeaten 135 saw England to victory at a packed Headingley yesterday.

Australia looked poised to regain the Ashes after England were dismissed for only 67 in their first innings, the Aussies setting them a record 359 for victory.

But the former Cockermouth School pupil weighed up the situation, making only 32 runs from 119 balls as he got himself in.

Stokes said: “Just never give up. It’s not over until it’s over. When Leachy [No11 Jack Leach] came in it was pretty clear what had to be done. It was five and one. I’ll take five [deliveries], you take one.

“But he’s done it before, he’s a super night-watchman, knowing what he had to do. I couldn’t watch in the end I was just waiting to see what happened.”

Stokes’ innings included 11 fours and eight sixes.

“I think when it got down to the 30s I was thinking, ‘rein it in a little’, but when it was in the 60s, 70s, 50s I had to really try and I sort of got in the zone," Stokes added.

“We had to win this game to stay in the Ashes and we managed to do it.

“We’ve got to move on now. We’ve managed to keep our hopes alive of doing the double and we can take a lot of momentum.

“It’s nice to get a break now and recharge the batteries and hopefully hit the ground running again in Manchester.”

Former England captain David Gower led the tributes to match-winner Stokes.

“That was the most extraordinary performance I have seen from anyone ever, both as a player and as a broadcaster over the last 40 years,” Gower said on Sky Sports.

“To dominate proceedings like that, to control proceedings, to take all the risks that could easily have failed, to come out on top, to be there at that moment, that takes unbelievable skill, unbelievable courage.”

And the plaudits came thick and fast, Aussie legend Shane Warne saying: “To be here and see something like that was super special.”

England captain Joe Root, who made 77 in the second innings, added: “We said at the start of the day, ‘we just have to believe’ and while two people are alive and breathing, we have a chance.

“We’ve seen some freakish things already this summer in the World Cup but I didn’t think we’d see something similar in this series.

“It was an incredible game of cricket, an incredible atmosphere and Test cricket is alive and kicking. This Ashes is alive and kicking.”

Asked about Stokes’ display, he said: “That was just incredible. To try and sum that up in words is pretty much impossible. Outrageous batting.”