Smith‘s plea to Aussie selectors
STEVE Smith has implored selectors to keep the faith for next year's shot at drought-breaking Ashes history in the UK, starting with the backing in of Cameron Bancroft for the tour of South Africa.
The Australian captain gave the out-of-form Bancroft the strongest possible endorsement to be retained to take on the Proteas' high-voltage attack in March, but Smith makes no secret of the fact he has his eye on the biggest prize of all.
Australia has not won an Ashes series in the UK since 2001 and Smith believes the unit that systematically dismantled England 4-0 this summer - culminating in Monday's innings and 123-run carve-up at the SCG - has the potential to end the curse once and for all.
In Smith's short captaincy, his dressing room has often resembled a revolving door, with more players passing through than Steve Waugh had to deal with in his entire tenure as skipper - including Peter Handscomb and Matt Renshaw this summer.
The moving ball has destroyed Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke's UK teams, but Smith believes he has a side fast proving they're capable to adapting to all conditions.
Australia's four-pronged bowling attack took 20 wickets each in a comprehensive and ruthless display, but Smith went into bat for the only poor performer Bancroft, the 25-year-old opener he believes must be shown some love for the next acid test on the road to the return Ashes series - a heavy-duty campaign to South Africa.
Selectors will sit down to pick a 15-man South African squad in the next fortnight, and if Smith's vote of confidence is anything to go by, Bancroft will open the innings against Dale Steyn and the world's best attack.
"He's worked hard and probably hasn't scored as many runs as he would have liked throughout this series but he's a good young player, he's a great character and he's got a terrific work ethic and the more he plays he's going to continue to improve and get better," said Smith.
"If the selectors keep the faith and I hope they do then it'll only be good for him and good for the group.
"A lot can change between now and then that's still a long time away but this team has been magnificent this series.
"The cricket we've played has been great. The more we play together, the more we're going to get better as a group.
"We've just got to keep getting better and improving as a team.
"England in 2019 it is a long way away but it's a real challenge for us as well and a bucket list for mine to win an Ashes series in England."
Australia have played an attritional game in this series that has grinded England down to the ground.
Last year they made advancements in spinning conditions in India and Bangladesh, without completely nailing those opportunities.
However, the greatest challenge of all for Australian cricket over the past two decades has been defeating the old enemy in the UK.
Smith admits he's already started thinking about how it can be done - as he talked up the role experienced stars Shaun Marsh and Tim Paine might play in 18 months time.
"I think it's different obviously to playing a Kookaburra here," said Smith.
"(In England) it can move around consistently at times and I think everyone is vulnerable to a moving ball. It's about finding a way to have a solid defence and a game plan that can work in those conditions and over the next couple of years guys are going to continue to develop and get that game plan in place."
Australia needed six wickets to finish off the fifth Test in Sydney on Monday, but that was whittled down to five just after lunch when England captain Joe Root was unable to return from a debilitating stomach bug.
Pat Cummins stepped up to take four wickets and finish the series' highest-wicket-taker as he took down the final line of defence, Jonny Bairstow (38) plumb lbw.
Nathan Lyon started the rot by getting rid of Moeen Ali for the seventh time in nine innings this series - one of the most dominant performances ever by a bowler against an opposing batsman.
Smith was out on his own as the man of the series with one of the most almighty performances ever by a batsman, however the skipper believes the 4-0 result was a result of players pitching in across the board.
Earlier last year, Smith was Superman in India but Australia fell short because not enough teammates went with him.
"You can't really win an Ashes series when that's the case (no one stepping up) so it's been good that so many different people have stepped up at different times to help us win the series," said Smith.
"You see the Marsh boys with Shaun through the whole series and Mitch through the last Test match has been magnificent. All the bowlers have been great and Tim Paine has been exceptional behind the stumps and scoring valuable runs at times as well.
"That's what's been so special about it."