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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Despite Ashes series win Steve Smith's Australian cricket team not yet a finished product

This Australia side have all the ingredients to be great, but they also have kinks to iron out ahead of bigger tests - such as their upcoming series against South Africa

Steve Smith is leading an Australia side full of promise, but they have a few more stern tests ahead of them. Ryan Pierse / Getty Images
Steve Smith is leading an Australia side full of promise, but they have a few more stern tests ahead of them. Ryan Pierse / Getty Images

Likely at some point on Monday morning, UAE time, England's misery in the 2017/18 Ashes series will come to an end as Australia wrap up victory in the fifth Test in Sydney.

It will give Steve Smith's men a 4-0 victory in the five-match series and is likely to spark joyous scenes in the Australia dressing room as they celebrate regaining the Ashes.

With five one-day internationals against England and a Twenty20 series with England and New Zealand still to come, the attention in Australian cricket will remain on the home front in the coming weeks.

But for Smith and his Test squad they do not have long to wait for the next immediate challenge with a four-Test series spread across March.

You would not blame them, having comprehensively routed England, for being full of confidence for taking on the Proteas.

But there are areas of their play that still need work, and even former Test batsman Ed Cowan added a note of caution during Sunday's fourth day's play.

Dale Steyn, if fit, and his fellow South Africa fast bowlers will likely pose a stiff challenge to Australia's batsmen. Carl Fourie / Getty Images
Dale Steyn, if fit, and his fellow South Africa fast bowlers will likely pose a stiff challenge to Australia's batsmen. Carl Fourie / Getty Images

Cowan, who played 18 Tests for Australia between 2011 and 2013, told the BBC's Test Match Special: "This series is giving a false sense of how strong Australian cricket is.

"We've had our struggles away from home."

That might be a little unfair on Australia overall, but Cowan does have a point that judgement should probably be reserved on just how good their Test side are at present until after they have toured South Africa.

You can only beat what is in front of you and Australia have done that well against England.

But this will not go down as a well-remembered England side, with a bowling attack that struggled to threaten in Australian conditions and a batting line up that proved, Melbourne apart, brittle on a regular basis.

The series has been highlighted by the excellent batting of Smith, who struck three hundreds, the one in Perth a double, and scored 687 runs in total at an average of 137.40.

But what is forgotten is the century in Brisbane and the 239 in Perth became as rescue operations, with England in a good position when he came to the crease, and the hundred in Melbourne earned Australia a draw.

England did not put Australia under consistent pressure very much in the series, largely because they were not good enough. But the few times they did, they enjoyed success.

Australia have issues at opener, with Cameron Bancroft struggling as he averaged only 25 and made just one fifty.

The middle order had looked an issue before the series, but the two hundreds scored each by the Marsh brothers in the shape of Shaun and Mitchell does appear to have answered that problem, for now at least.

Mitchell Marsh, right, and his brother Shaun now need to prove their consistency. David Gray / Reuters
Mitchell Marsh, right, and his brother Shaun now need to prove their consistency. David Gray / Reuters

Though the jury remains out on whether the pair are capable, given their average performances in the past, of scoring runs heavily consistently.

South Africa and the ominous threat of Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn, if fit, will be a much bigger test of the Australia top six.

Tim Paine has proven a solid hand behind the stumps, but the 33-year-old wicketkeeper still feels like he is a short-term option until a younger talent comes through.

Australia's bowling was superb throughout the series. Pace trio Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood all weighed in with wickets, while Nathan Lyon's spin was not only a threat but also slowed England's scoring.

The absence of Starc through injury in Melbourne, however, was a reminder that depth is a concern, with Jackson Bird a poor replacement.

There is work still to be done but this has the potential to be a great Australia side.

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They have a fine bowling attack and have in Smith a player who, if he keeps up his form, will go down as one of the all-time greats in the game.

But England did cause them problems at times and they would be ill-advised to ignore that.

England were 3-0 winners over Australia in the 2013 Ashes series in England, but the scoreline flattered them in a series that was closely fought.

The tourists, though, ignored the weaknesses in their side, and when they went to Australia a few months later for the return series were trounced 5-0.

Now this is not to say anything like that will happen to Australia in South Africa and they are a better side then that England 2013 outfit.

But they should not allow a likely 4-0 winning margin of the work that they still need to do to become great.