An emotional Steve Smith has given an insight into how much it meant to captain Australia to an Ashes series triumph, revealing he broke down in tears after guiding his side to an innings victory over England in the third Test at the WACA ground in Perth.
Smith has at times been accused of being robotic, but his candid admission illustrates the sense of pride he attached to helping Australia regain the Ashes urn with an unassailable 3-0 series scoreline.
He led Australia by example in Perth, with his highest Test score of 239, adding to the century he posted in the first Test, which laid the platform for Australia’s win in Brisbane.
Smith could not have been prouder of the Australian performance in the series so far, and he conceded emotion got the better of him soon after the final England wicket fell in the innings and 41-run win in Perth.
“I was crying in the sheds a bit just a minute ago,” he told Grandstand.
“Everything just sort of came out. We’ve worked incredibly hard. It’s been a great couple of weeks. I’m really proud of everyone back in that room.”
Steve Smith celebrates with teammates after securing the innings victory in Perth. (Reuters: David Gray)
Winning in Perth had seemed inevitable for Smith and his troops until rain ended play early on day four, before further downfalls as well as farcical scenes on Monday morning — which included leaf blowers being used to dry wet patches on the pitch — left a question mark over whether Australia could clinch the series ahead of the Boxing Day Test.
England had resumed on 4-132 when play finally got underway at 1:00pm (local time) but a brilliant bowling performance from Josh Hazlewood, who finished with the figures of 5-48, helped end the tourists’ push to avoid defeat.
It was performances such Hazlewood’s, and also Mitchell Marsh’s maiden Test century, which left Smith beaming about the team effort that saw Australia regain the Ashes it lost to England in 2015.
“Everyone has played a part in this series, they have done a great job for Australia, for their country and to get that urn back in Perth yet again,” said Smith, who also played in Australia’s 2013/14 Ashes series win.
“It’s something amazing and a dream come true.”
The pressure of captaining Australia in the Ashes at home is always immense and this was not lost on Smith, who rated the series win as among the “top three” highlights of his career.
He wanted to make a statement as a captain and he achieved the feat by making sure Australia dominated the key moments against Joe Root and his England side.
“I was incredibly determined,” Smith said.
“My first series as captain in the Ashes, I really wanted to leave my mark and do some really great things. I’m proud of my performances but I’m really proud of everyone in that room. “
Smith’s teammates in awe of their inspirational skipper
Marsh, a controversial addition to Australia’s XI for the WACA Test, joked about taking his “parachute off” after his first appearance of the series saw the home side claim its unbeatable lead.
He was alongside Smith for a 301-run partnership in Australia’s only innings while scoring 181, before witnessing a rise in intensity from his captain on the final day when England was on the ropes.
“When we went out to field today he was that intense and he was pumped up and you could tell that he was like his normal self,” Marsh said.
“He was on but I think he was pretty relieved.”
Australia opener Cameron Bancroft, who made his Test debut in Brisbane, was another of Smith’s teammates glowing in his praise of his skipper.
“It’s such a great learning curve to see Steve Smith go about his business,” he said.
“He’s world class. I’ve sat there and tried to de-construct his game into why he is good and I haven’t been able to do it yet. Nonetheless, he’s an absolute genius.”
Australia will be looking to complete a series whitewash in the final two Tests in Melbourne and Sydney, although Smith wanted his team to celebrate their Perth victory before turning their attention to the remaining fixtures.