SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia captain Steve Smith was delighted with the way his side rebounded from a series defeat to South Africa to sweep Pakistan 3-0 on Saturday but warned their next test campaign in India would present a challenge on a whole different level.
Back-to-back home defeats at the hands of South Africa in November took their test losing streak to five matches, leaving Smith “humiliated” and triggering something of a crisis in Australian cricket.
The result was the axing of half the team and a consolation victory over the Proteas in Adelaide before wins over Pakistan in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney restored a semblance of normality to the home summer.
“It wasn’t great times but I‘m really proud of the way the guys have come in and turned it around since then,” Smith told reporters after their 220-run victory in the third test at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
”I think we’ve played some very good cricket and that’s the kind of cricket that I want us to play.
“We’ve scored big runs in every game, every first innings. We’ve been able to build pressure with the ball, hit good areas and we’ve caught well this series, which has been a big focus of ours. It’s been a pretty good series for us.”
Although Smith has led by example with the bat, clinching Player of the Series honours after scoring 441 runs at an average of 110.25 with two centuries, he said he did not think he had changed much as a captain in the last two months.
“It’s always easier to say someone’s doing a good job when you’re winning games of cricket,” he said.
“We’ve obviously turned the results around and we’ve been able to get some values into the group and things for the guys to sort of live by and everyone’s done that since they’ve come in and it’s been great.”
His vice captain, David Warner, proved his fine form with a century in the opening session and a 23-ball half century, the second fastest ever, in the second innings in Sydney.
There were also maiden centuries for newcomers Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb in the series, while Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc confirmed their status as world class pacemen, albeit without setting the house on fire.
Those performances augur well for the home Ashes series at the end of the year but first comes a four-test tour of India, where Australia have not won a series since 2004.
“It’s going to be a very difficult series going over there,” Smith added.
”We’re under no illusions it’s going to be tough. It’s going to be a great challenge and learning curve for this group.
”I think the core of this group will take part in India. A few of us have been there before and we know it’s difficult play in their own backyard. They’re a very good team.
“We’re going to have to play incredibly well over there if we’re going to compete with India.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford