Ashes 2019: Ricky Ponting lauds Australia’s ‘relentless’ bowlers, Nasser Hussain hails worthy winners
Joe Root was bowled first ball during England's second innings at Old Trafford. © AFP

Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting said on Sunday that the tourists’ “relentless” bowlers deserve as much credit for retaining the Ashes as Steve Smith.

The world’s top-ranked Test batsman, Smith has been in superb form this Ashes with 671 runs, including three hundreds, at an average of 134.20. Smith made a commanding 211 in Australia’s 185-run victory in the fourth Test at Old Trafford, a result that left them 2-1 up with just one to play ahead of next week’s finale at The Oval.

But Ponting — twice a losing Ashes series captain in England in 2005 and 2009 — insisted the bowlers’ efforts should not be ignored.

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“I think they (Australia) should have had a bigger lead, not just on the back of Steve Smith,” Ponting, one of the best batsmen of his generation, told Sky Sports. “Everyone is talking about what impact he has had, but the whole bowling department has been absolutely outstanding. Look at the difference in the bowling attacks in this game.

Pat Cummins Ashes 2019
Pat Cummins took four England wickets in the final innings. © AFP

“(Mitchell) Starc, (Pat) Cummins, (Josh) Hazlewood and (Nathan) Lyon, match that up with the England attack. There were more holes in that England attack than the Australia one. They were relentless in everything they did.”

(READ: With Ashes win, Steve Smith ticks off ‘bucket list’ item)

Meanwhile, ex-England skipper Nasser Hussain said Australia deserved to keep the Ashes.

That England took the game into the final hour of Sunday’s last day before being dismissed for 197, having been none for two after Cummins took two wickets in two balls, said much about their resolve.

But Hussain, the last England captain to fail to win an Ashes series on home soil in 2001, said the hosts could have no complaints given they had lost the opener by 251 runs and then only drawn level thanks to Ben Stokes’s stunning century that secured a one-wicket win in the third Test at Headingley.

(READ: Losing captain Joe Root determined to stay in charge)

“There has been progress,” said Hussain.  “You can’t fault the character and resilience of this England side. Other England sides would have just crumbled in a heap. But the problem is they often find themselves 10 for two, 20 for two.

“Against certain sides you can come back from that, but from nought for two last night against this Australian attack, you can’t come back from that. Let’s be honest, if England had gone to The Oval at 1-1, I think it would have been a travesty,” he added.