Superb Smith earns Ashes captains' praise

Steve Smith has racked up 671 runs at 134.2 so far in the Ashes-winning series for Australia.
Steve Smith has racked up 671 runs at 134.2 so far in the Ashes-winning series for Australia.

Australia skipper Tim Paine feels Steve Smith is still getting better, while England counterpart Joe Root believes the batsman has been the difference between Australia and England in this Ashes.

There have been plenty of momentum shifts and game-changing moments leading up to Australia's dramatic snatching of a 2-1 series lead but Smith has consistently been a class above teammates and rivals alike.

Nathan Lyon singled Smith out for praise prior to an emotional rendition of the team song in the Old Trafford outfield, calling his teammate into the middle of the huddle and telling the group how proud he is of the batsman's remarkable return after the Cape Town cheating scandal.

Smith, who collected his second man-of-the-match award of the series on Sunday, has tallied 671 runs at 134.2 to give him a shot of reaching Don Bradman's peerless mark of 974 runs during the 1930 Ashes.

The superstar has achieved it in his Test return from a year-long suspension, and despite missing out on three innings because of delayed concussion resulting from a bouncer blow to the neck at Lord's.

The remarkable right-hander notably missed the third Test in Leeds, scene of Australia's only defeat on tour.

"Look at the Test matches and there have been times when one guy has made a difference and that has probably cost us the urn this time around," Root said.

"It has been a series dominated by the ball ... take Steve Smith out and it would be very similar from both teams.

"Bowling at Steve Smith in this form is difficult and you have to make sure you take all your chances. We did not do that and that cost us."

Smith, part of unsuccessful Ashes tours in 2013 and 2015, was thrilled to have ticked off one of his big "bucket list" item.

"I've been here a few times where things haven't quite gone our way, we haven't performed to the best of our ability," he said.

"It feels amazing."

Tim Paine suggested Smith's incredible returns were no surprise given his love of cricket and the 30-year-old's "talent, hunger and skill".

"People don't see how driven he is and how he trains, eats and sleeps batting," Paine said.

"He is just a genius and I never had any doubt he would come back and be the player he was. The scary thing is he's getting better. I don't know where it is going to stop but we are enjoying being on the ride."

Australian Associated Press