SYDNEY - Captain Steve Smith has praised the collective efforts of his "exceptional" four front-line bowlers for contributing to Australia's crushing 4-0 Ashes series win over England Monday.
The Australians rounded off a dominant five-match series with an innings and 123-run hammering of the beleaguered tourists on the final day of the fifth Sydney Test.
Mitchell Starc, John Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and spinner Nathan Lyon all finished with 20 or more wickets in the series to take 87 in total to dominate the England batsmen.
Despite this, Smith was not prepared to rate them higher than the quartet of Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle and Lyon who bowled Australia to a 5-0 whitewash in the last Ashes series in Australia in 2013-14.
"I think all the bowlers did an exceptional job," he told reporters. "Each of our bowlers have over 20 wickets which showed that the guys have bowled together as a group, bowled in partnerships, bowled for one another and helped us take the 80-odd wickets that we've needed to take four Test matches."
But he stopped of declaring them a better bowling unit than their predecessors four years ago.
"I think they are all great bowlers. I can't put any of them ahead of each other," he said. "I think both attacks were outstanding and got the job done. I can't say any one is better than the other."
Cummins, who captured four for 39 to finish man-of-the-match in Sydney, finished as the leading wicket-taker in the series with 23 at 24.65 and played in all five Tests.
Starc claimed 22 wickets at 23.54, Hazlewood 21 at 25.90 and Lyon 21 at 29.23.
Lyon, the leading all-time Australian off-spinner, has now taken 290 wickets at 31.64 in 74 Tests.
"Nathan has been exceptional with the way he's bowled and the consistency he's had has been outstanding," Smith said.
"For me the moment that changed the whole series was Nathan Lyon and his run out (James Vince on 83) at the Gabba, that was such a huge moment in the series.
"Those sorts of plays can change a series and I think that was a series-changing moment."
Smith, who was the undoubted man-of-the-series with 687 runs including three centuries at 137.40, praised the entire team's input into the triumph.
"Everyone has had a role to play and had some impact on this series," he said.
"That's what has been so special about it, it hasn't just been one or two guys stepping up and doing the job. You can't really win an Ashes series when that's the case.
"Looking at the series as a whole, England had their foot in the door in most Test matches.
"But we just won the key moments in the games and didn’t let England back into the games, which was crucial. I was really pleased that we were able to do that."