The genius of Smith finally silences English boos
It took four months and a superhuman 774 Ashes runs for England fans to finally recognise the genius of Australian superstar Steve Smith.
The man of the series walked off The Oval, after 23 final runs, to a rousing ovation after being booed during his twin centuries that won Australia the first Test at Edgbaston.
Smith arrived in England for the World Cup with a target on his back after a 12-month ban which he conceded took him to some dark places.
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But he left with a medal around his neck as the best player of the series, the Ashes urn, and the unbridled adulation of a cricketing public basking in the batting greatness of a man who performed at a level beyond the comprehension of most.
"I've given it my all since I've been here the last four and a half months every Test match we have played and I didn't have much left to give today," an exhausted Smith said, having produced 113 runs in the final Test, and taking six catches, despite carrying the effects of a cold, an a seriously long tour.
"I'm pretty cooked to be honest mentally and physically and I am looking forward to a nice couple of weeks rest before getting back into the Australian summer.
"I am proud of my performances … and to take the urn back home. That was the goal and I am proud I was able to play some part in that."
Smith played more than some part, he played the whole part.
"He was the difference in the series," England captain Joe Root said.
The records fell like confetti as Smith plundered hundred after hundred to start the series, then a momentous double-century at Old Trafford to help secure the Ashes urn.
His final run count was more than any other player in a single series in 25 years, despite only playing, as he said "three and a half Tests" after the sickening blow at Lord's which cost him three innings.
Smith now owns two of the most prolific series since 1990, and his last two Ashes alone have netted an almost ridiculous 1461 runs, four hundreds, and two double-hundreds.
His 11 Ashes hundreds are second only to Sir Donald Bradman, and Smith occupies the next rung under the greatest ever batsman on the numbers he has produced.
The 30-year-old stands alone, and despite Root calling Smith a "pain", even he conceded he'd witnessed something extremely special.
"In difficult conditions he's stood up and done something special, and been the difference really, he really has," Root said.
Having missed 12 months of all cricket, which included elbow surgery too, no-one, not even Smith, knew how would come back.
Smith knew after the first innings at Edgbaston, and everyone knows now. It's even better to know, for Australia at least, is that Smith wants to get better.
"The first innings was my favourite innings of the whole series … to pull the team out of trouble and the time and gave me the confidence to know I could slot straight back in and perform," Smith said.
"You always want to get better as a player, and I will continue to try and get better as long as I play.
"Nothing is ever too much, you have to keep working hard, and I'll continue to do that as long as I can."