England chased 299 with 22 overs to spare on the final day to win the second Test at Trent Bridge.
“The enjoyment of every minute out on the field was incredible,” said Stokes.
“I can’t quite get my head around how we’ve chased 299 with 22 overs left on day five of a Test.”
Stokes, 31, played career-defining innings twice in the summer of 2019, first to defeat New Zealand in the World Cup final at Lord’s, then to down Australia in the third Ashes Test in Leeds.
Now, in his second Test since being appointed full-time captain, England pulled off a stunning run-chase in front of a capacity 17,000-crowd that took advantage of the final day attendance being free of charge.
England were set 299 from 72 overs and strolled the pursuit in 50. Not only was the chase England’s fifth-highest of all-time, but by scoring at almost six runs per over it was the fastest they have ever chased a target of more than 100.
They were led by Jonny Bairstow, whose 136 saw him reach three figures in 77 balls – England’s second-fastest Test hundred, while Stokes ended 75 not out.
“I was out there for a while with him and he had the Jonny eyes,” Stokes told Test Match Special. “You probably have seen it on TV but when he’s got those eyes you’re not stopping him. Just let him go on and do what he needs to do.”
In one astonishing spell of hitting after tea, Bairstow took 59 runs from 29 balls, just missing out on a 120-year record for England’s fastest ton.
“It was great fun,” he said. “I’m hugely proud of the way I went about it.
“It was a choice to go up, to hit the ball into the stands, to keep swinging hard. Stokesy said ‘don’t even think about keeping the ball down’. I was just trying to do what the captain said.”
The victory gives England a series success over the world champions and means they are two wins from two under new captain Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum, who have been urging the team to play with aggression, positivity and freedom.
“This couldn’t have been a better start in terms of the new way we want to go forward,” said Stokes.
“We know we’re still working towards a lot of things. We’re never going to be happy with where we are.
“There are going to be some bad days. There will be days when we’ll probably lose a game with this mindset. The biggest challenge for us will be how we respond to adversity and things not going our way.”
Meanwhile, New Zealand bowler Kyle Jamieson will return home after an MRI scan revealed a stress-reaction to his lower left back.
The 27-year-old picked up the injury while bowling on day three of the second Test. Pace bowler Blair Tickner has been called into the squad as Jamieson’s replacement.
Cam Fletcher has been ruled out for the rest of the tour with a grade-two right-hamstring strain, with Dane Cleaver receiving his maiden Test call-up as replacement.
‘Bring on this style of cricket’ – reaction
Former England captain Michael Vaughan on Test Match Special: “Bring on this style of cricket.
“There might be the odd game where it’s a bit ropey but as long as they commit to being brave and they know this is the style of cricket of Ben Stokes’ captaincy.
“It’s amazing how you can change mentality quickly. McCullum deserves a huge amount of credit. He’s told them to go out and affect the game when they bat. Be busy. Be positive. Look to score.”
Former England captain Alastair Cook on Test Match Special: “Ben Stokes won’t take any credit but he should take quite a lot of it.
A) for taking the job when everyone was saying you can’t do it as an all-rounder and our most valuable player, and b) making some brave decisions, such as Ollie Pope at three and Ben Foakes at seven.”
‘Thank you England!’ – how social media reacted to England victory
Adam: Ben Stokes’ interview at the end should just be, “Are you not entertained!” in Gladiator voice. Unbelievable. People were mocking this team’s attitude three hours ago!
Grant: Take a bow Jonny Bairstow – even over radio, that was goosebumps on goosebumps.
Al: What a great Test match, thank you England for putting on a show, what a great start to the new era!
Sam: 299-5 off 50 overs! That wouldn’t be a bad ODI score to be honest! Unreal batting from England.