BOURNEMOUTH captain Chris Park heaped praise on former Dorset team-mate Jack Leach and insisted: “He always used to tell us he could bat!”

While Ben Stokes's inspiring 135 not out in the third Test at Headingley guided England to a memorable one-wicket triumph, it would not have been possible without Leach.

The pair put on an unbeaten 10th-wicket stand of 76, of which Leach scored one run which brought the scores level.

The number 11 batsman shared the crease with Stokes for an historic hour-long cameo.

He faced 17 high-pressure deliveries, knowing any misjudgement would send the Ashes back to Australia as England completed a record run chase of 359.

Specsavers have even offered the tail-ender free glasses for life after being the man to stick around alongside Stokes.

Leach was part of the Dorset setup which sealed the Minor Counties Championship crown in 2010.

Under Park’s captaincy, the spinner took seven wickets in the final of the competition against Lincolnshire at Dean Park.

He claimed 30 Championship wickets that season, including 13 on his debut against Herefordshire.

Leach only averaged 5.75 with the bat for Dorset in Championship cricket that season.

But Park insisted the now-England hero always had faith in his batting.

Asked what Leach was like in the Dorset squad, the wicketkeeper batsman told the Daily Echo: “He always used to tell us he could bat!

“He used to bat seven or eight for us with Dorset and there was a couple of times where he did go in as a night watchman – very much like he’s doing for England now.

“I don’t know what his highest score was for Dorset. He never scored particularly high runs but he always showed that he could hang around.

“He obviously was a talented boy pushed to us by Somerset to develop his cricket. For the two years he did play he was outstanding with the ball and a big factor of why we won the Championship.”

Describing his emotions watching the drama unfold on Sunday, Park added: “It was brilliant. Just to see Jack playing for England makes us all proud that we shared the dressing room with him.

“He is there by right and by his performances with the ball.

“From an early age you knew he had very good prospects for the future as a left-arm spinner.

“It’s great to see him doing well down at Taunton and that’s now materialised into him breaking through into the England side.

“Fingers crossed he can get involved a bit more in the next and last Test matches and hopefully win back the Ashes for England.”