'Edgbaston rescue act my favorite of the whole series' – Smith
Steve Smith returned to Test cricket to a chorus of boos but was given a standing ovation at the Oval after ending up with 774 runs across four Test matches.
The catch by Ben Stokes at leg slip that sent Smith back to the pavilion in the second innings of the final Test ended a remarkable run throughout the series – 144 and 142 at Edgbaston, 92 at Lords, 211 and 82 at Old Trafford, and 80 and 23 at the Oval.
Smith made his comeback to international cricket in March after serving a year-long ban for ball-tampering.
But he seemed to be a different batsman in the Ashes where England had tried every tactic to dismiss him.
‘Edgbaston innings gave me a lot of confidence’
Asked when he felt he was back to his best, a "proud" Smith said it was after his rescue-act at Edgbaston when Australia were reduced to 122-8 at one point.
"That gave me a lot of confidence," he said. "That was probably my favourite innings of the whole series that I played.
"The first Test match, as we know, is always incredibly important in an Ashes series and to sort of pull the team out of a bit of trouble at the time and give me that confidence straight up that I could slot back in and perform, that gave me a lot of confidence.
"It was a long 18 months out of the game and I've got a lot of people to thank, in particular my wife."
Smith had to miss three innings in total after he was struck on the neck by a fast Jofra Archer bouncer in the second Test at Lord's.
After missing out on the third Test at Leeds, he made a comeback for the fourth Test at Old Trafford and struck a double hundred to help Australia regain the Ashes.
His 80 in the first innings of the final Test was his 10th consecutive fifty in Ashes Tests.
Australia were given a target of 399 to win the series but it turned out to be a monumental effort as Smith wasn’t able to fire in the fourth innings, falling for 23.
‘Nice reception as I walked off’
Regarded as the best ‘problem solver’ in cricket by Australia head coach Justin Langer, Smith's batting is marked by an unorthodox grip and a shuffle across the crease before ball release.
But he has the ability to make batting look so easy and often appears to be batting on a different surface as compared to his other team-mates.
Smith said he liked the gesture from the crowd in London, although he was disappointed not to have ended the series on a high point.
"It was a nice reception as I walked off," he said. "It would have been nice if I'd had a few more runs under my belt in this game.
"I've given it my all since I've been here for the last four-and-a-half-months in every Test match that we've played and I didn't have much left to give today.
"I'm pretty cooked to be honest, mentally and physically. I'm looking forward to a nice couple of weeks' rest now before getting into the Australian summer."