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Tim Paine and co

'In the next few years, we're going to be a hard team to beat' – Tim Paine

Eng v Aus, 5th Ashes Test, reaction

Test captain Tim Paine believes that with the pace attack they have got and with Steve Smith in the side, Australia have the potential to be the toughest team to beat in world cricket.

While the 135-run win the final Ashes Test allowed England to level the hard-fought series on Sunday, 15 September, Australia, as previous holders, were able to retain the Ashes for the next two-and-a-half years, a feat no Australian team has achieved since 2001.

"Taking the urn home was what we came here to do," Paine said after the end of the series. "We're thrilled by that. This game puts a bit of a dampener on it, but, overall, if you said we would be taking them [the Ashes] home, we would have jumped at that."

Australia's success in the series was led by former captain Steve Smith, who returned to Test cricket after a year-long gap. He accumulated 774 runs in seven innings at an impressive average of 110.57. The team also led the bowling charts, with Pat Cummins finishing as the highest wicket-taker with 29 scalps in five games. Paine felt that if the rest of the line-up offered them more support, the team would vastly improve – and that he saw as his "unfinished business".

"Steve had a great series and won a couple of Tests by himself, but we've got a couple of parts that we need to improve," he said. "As a whole series, we had a heap of good moments in a country where Australia hasn't had a lot of success for a long time. We can be proud of that.

This game puts a bit of a dampener on it, but overall if you said we would be taking them [the Ashes] home, we would have jumped at that.

Tim Paine

"I still have a bit to give, but we're always trying to develop more leaders in our group and there is unfinished business – it's about getting better. If we can click them into gear when he [Smith] is at the height of his powers, and with the pace attack we have got, in the next few years we are going to be a hard team to beat," he explained.

Smith, who was Australia's Player of the Series, was pleased with his return and described how his century in the first innings of the first Ashes Test set the tone for the rest of the series. Smith smashed 144 in the Edgbaston Test, which Australia won by 251 runs. 

Steve Smith scored 774 runs in the series at an average of 110.57
Steve Smith scored 774 runs in the series at an average of 110.57

"The first innings was my favourite innings of the whole series," Smith said. "The first Test is always important in an Ashes series, and to pull the team out of trouble at the time, it gave me the confidence to know I could slot straight back in and perform.

"It was a long 18 months [between Tests], and I have a lot of people to thank. I have given it my all while I've been here for the last four-and-a-half months, but I didn't have much more to give today.

"I was pretty cooked mentally and physically and I'm looking forward to a couple of weeks off and heading back for the Australian summer," he added.