MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: Australia captain Tim Paine hailed Steve Smith as the best player he has ever seen after the star batsman picked up the man-of-the match award following victory in the fourth Test against England on Sunday.
The home side, set a huge second-innings target of 383 to win, were bowled out for 197, putting Australia 2-1 up in the five-Test series ahead of next week´s finale at the Oval.
The result means current holders Australia retain the Ashes regardless of the result in the final match of the series.
Smith scored 211 and 82 in the game to take his tally for the series to an astonishing 671 runs at an average innings of 134.2, including three hundreds, despite missing England´s one-wicket win in the third Test at Headingley with concussion.
“I´m not sure I have ever played better,” Smith told Sky Sports. “I have enjoyed my time in the middle. I have come back fresh from a year out, but relaxed and chilled out. I want to be the one in the middle doing my job for the team as I don´t particularly enjoy watching cricket.”
Paine said: “Steve is the best player I have ever seen. He showed that again in this Test match. He knows the game so well and reads it so well.”
Australia coach Justin Langer also hailed Smith, who tops the global Test batting rankings after returning from a 12-month ball-tampering ban.
“We´ve got the best fast bowler in the world (Pat Cummins) and the best Test batsman in the world,” he told Sky Sports.
“I thought Virat Kohli was the best batsman I´ve ever seen because of the way he plays in all forms, but Steve Smith… That´s another level.
“He´s a great problem-solver. His hunger for the game, I´ve never seen anything like it.”