Ashes 2019: Smith ticks one off the bucket list after Australia retains urn at Old Trafford

Australia's talismanic batsman Steve Smith says retaining the Ashes in England has ticked an item off his bucket list.

Steve Smith celebrates after Australia retained the Ashes   -  Getty Images

Steve Smith ticked an item off his bucket list after inspiring Australia to retain the Ashes.

Smith has been the star of the series, and after missing the Headingley Test due to concussion, he returned to lead the way for Australia at Old Trafford.

The 30-year-old scored 211 in the first innings, before taking the match away from England with a superb knock of 82 in his second spell at the crease.

Craig Overton and Jack Leach held Australia at bay on day five after England's top order again failed to impress, but Marnus Labuschagne and Josh Hazelwood clinched the wickets needed to claim a win which gives the visitor a 2-1 lead in the series and sees it retain the urn for the first time since 2002-03.

"It feels amazing to know the urn's coming home," Smith - who has 671 runs from his five innings in the series so far - told Sky Sports.

"I've been here a few times where things haven't quite gone our way, [and] we didn't perform to the best of our ability in 2013 and 2015.

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"It was always one I wanted to tick off my bucket list, to get the urn over here. There's another game left and we'd love to win [the series] but to know the urn's coming home is extremely satisfying.

"I'm incredibly proud of the way I've performed throughout this series and help the team achieve what they've achieved today."

 

While the odds were stacked against England throughout the final session, Smith acknowledged the spectre of their defeat at Headingley was not far from Australia's minds.

"The boys were getting a little bit tight out there," Smith added. "But at the start of the day we thought we'd get our eight chances and it proved to be the way.

"[England] fought incredibly hard, I thought Overton was exceptionally good at the end there, showed great courage. Fortunately, the boys got the job done."

Smith also paid tribute to the captaincy of Tim Paine, who replaced him as Australia's Test skipper following the ball-tampering scandal in March 2018.

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"He's done a terrific job, not just in this series but in the last 12 to 18 months," Smith said of Paine, who came under criticism following the defeat at Leeds.

"He's got a group together which is doing a terrific job, and he showed his class today. Bowling Marnus at that stage today showed a lot of courage.

"Marnus did a terrific job and took the wicket, but Tim has been exceptional all around the group, and he's leading the men extremely well."

Labuschagne has proved to be another star for Australia, having initially replaced Smith as a concussion substitute, impressing with the bat before taking Leach's wicket at the end, and the 25-year-old believes this series will live long in the memory.

"It's hard to put into words what it means to bring the urn back for Australia," Labuschagne told Sky Sports. 

"You think of some of the great series, like 2005 when England obviously won, this has been up there with one of the best there has been, especially in England. 

"We know England just keep coming, as they showed in the last Test. It was really nice to be on the right end of it today."