Smith eyes elusive win in England after return of urn

Ticking off a personal “bucket list” item will drive Steve Smith to try and engineer a winning tour of England next year and break an 18-year Ashes drought away from home.
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Smith’s ns celebrated after their fifth Test win at the SCG on Monday, inviting the England team into their dressing room in the Members Stand to toast a campaign both sides insisted was played in good spirits despite no shortage of flare-ups.

The series was in the bag since won the third Test in Perth last month and while there are other challenges ahead of this team, the resumption of the fierce rivalry with England in the winter of 2019 is central to their planning.

Smith was named the man of the series after putting his stamp on the contest with a match-winning century in Brisbane and a double at the WACA, followed by a Test-saving hundred at the MCG.

Yet the question now is whether the captain can repeat such run-scoring prowess in English conditions when they are at their most demanding and where has not won since 2001.

As ‘s most important player they may need him to and while his record in England features three Ashes tons including a double at Lord’s in 2015, he was unable to prevent ‘s alarming slide when that series was on the line at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge.

Ladbrokes on Monday night installed as $2.10 favourite to win the 2019 Ashes, with England $2.75 and $4.33 offered for a drawn series.

“That’s still a long time away,” Smith said. “But this team has been magnificent this series. The cricket we’ve played has been great.

“I think 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 is a long way away but it is a real challenge for us as well and a bucket list for mine to win an Ashes series in England.”

The next Ashes will also be the swansong for head coach Darren Lehmann and is a major focus across the squad. Its position on the calendar has prompted batsmen such as Shaun and Mitchell Marsh to choose to play England county championship this winter to contend with a moving Duke ball, at the expense of picking up a tidy cheque in the Indian Premier League in the all-rounder’s case.

“I think it’s different obviously to playing a Kookaburra here. It can move around consistently at times,” Smith said.

“I think everyone is vulnerable to a moving ball. It’s about just trying to find a way to have a solid defence and a game plan that can work in those conditions. Over the next couple of years guys are going to continue to develop and get that game plan in place.

“It’s a tough tour, going to England, it’s a great place to play and a difficult place for any team travelling. England play incredibly well at home. I don’t know who would be favourites. But I now do look forward to going over there in 2019 and playing in another Ashes series.”

Sceptics will query whether Smith’s signature crab-like foray across his stumps, which proved so successful this summer as he chalked up 687 runs at an average of 137, will hold on a seaming deck under an overcast sky.

Veteran England seamer James Anderson, who adapted to foreign conditions commendably in England’s defeat, is not about to join their ranks after watching Smith confirm himself as the world’s best Test batsman by ending the series with a career average of 63.75.

Asked how he believed Smith’s technique would serve him in England, he replied: “I hope not very well, to be honest.”

Anderson added: “I mean it’s such an odd technique but something that works brilliantly for him. It’s not something that you coach, definitely, but I think the talent that he’s got, along with his mental toughness, is a very good combination at the moment.

“He’s very difficult to bowl at, his confidence is sky high as well, you can see that when he bats. Hopefully, with a bit more movement through the air in England in 2019 we’ll have a bit more success.”

Anderson, 35, intends to be there to try and stop him.

“I’m going to do everything I possibly can do to be available for that series,” he said.

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