Steve Smith's sensational 774 runs was key in Australia retaining the Ashes in England for the first time since 2001. (Image credit: Getty Images)
Tim Paine's Australian cricket team had undergone plenty of problems in the last couple of years. In the aftermath of the ball-tampering scandal, Australian cricket suffered from an identity crisis. Paine and his team had to mellow down after there was demand that the 'culture of winning at all costs' had to be relooked into. After suffering a defeat against India for the first time ever at home, Paine's side slowly rebuilt. After winning against Sri Lanka, Paine's team defied the odds and retained the Ashes in England for the first time after 18 years.
Summing up the performance of the side in the Ashes, Paine praised the tam for their efforts in Edgbaston and Old Trafford but expressed regret at the way how the side lost the Leeds Test, when they missed a couple of key chances and allowed Ben Stokes to play one of the best innings in the series to win by one wicket. The Australian skipper said winning in Edgbaston, which was England's fortress for a decade, was the turning point.
"There was so much talk about that being a fortress and how difficult a place it was going to be for us to start the series, probably by design, so for us to come over and win that first Test, and win it, in the end, quite convincingly gave us the belief that we could do itWe're taking the urn home so that's certainly what we came to do. We're thrilled by that, a little disappointed by this game obviously, puts a bit of a dampener on it. To win two Test matches pretty convincingly, should have won a third (at Headingley) -- let that slip no doubt," Paine said.
Paine heaped praise on Steve Smith, who blasted 774 runs at an average of 110 with three fifties and three centuries, including twin tons in Edgbaston and a double hundred in Old Trafford. However, the rest of the batting failed to click and Smith was the only one who propped Australia up and ensured they left English shores with the Urn.
"We've still got a way to go," he said. "Obviously Steve (Smith) had an unbelievably good series and won us a couple of Tests by himself so we've got some parts that we need to improve. But if we click them into gear while we've got Steve at the height of his powers and with the pace attack we've got, in the next few years we're going to be a very hard team to beat. There's plenty of improvement in this side. I still feel I've got a little bit to give in that space and we're always trying to develop more leaders within our group as well," Paine said.
Australia's next Test series is against Pakistan at home in November and it will be part of the World Test Championship.