When Steve Smith was finally beaten on day three of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford, the world’s most famous urn was being neatly wrapped ahead of its return Down Under.

Jeered and cheered in equal measure as he headed back to the pavilion, Smith’s 211 ensured England would once again need a miracle to win the Test match. This time though, it never came.

Booed wherever he’s been this summer – rightly or wrongly is down to opinion – there is no escaping the fact that Smith is the best batsman in the world right now. Without him Australia would not be leaving English shores with the Ashes. He is the leading run scorer for the series with 671, even after missing the third test at Headingley with concussion.

England will rightly bemoan the series ending injury to James Anderson in the first test as the moment their chances of success in the series plummeted. Just four overs into his spell ‘Jimmy’ pulled up and with it a huge chunk of England’s bowling threat. Stuart Broad has had a good series with the ball – he loves the Ashes – and Jofra Archer showed signs that he will go on to become an elite Test bowler, but Anderson’s injury left Joe Root with a huge hole he was never going to be able to fill. This, coupled with their many frailties with the bat, meant this series has been an uphill struggle for England from almost day one.

By no means has this been a bad summer for English cricket. The World Cup win on home soil was the culmination of four years graft with the white ball that meant there perhaps wasn’t 100% focus on this Ashes series. English cricket cycles tend to go from one Ashes to another, so to host a tournament that you’re expected to win just weeks before an Ashes series was always going to interrupt proceedings. This will be of no consolation to Root and his team, though.

What last week’s fourth Test did confirm though is that Manchester’s Old Trafford is now a firm fans favourite on the international calendar. The venue was widely regarded as the best at the World Cup, with pundits and players alike raving about the atmosphere and the temporary 8,000 capacity ‘party stand’. Once again, it lived up to hype over the five days of this engaging match, packed from the first ball to the last. Supporters will be pleased to know that the ECB have pencilled in at least one international fixture at the ground over the next four summers.

For all the fun though the defeat means England won’t be lifting the urn. The series isn’t lost yet, but there are no prizes for drawing in an Ashes series. Instead, England must head Down Under in 2021 and hope to win only their third series in Australia in 35 years.

Sadly, Steve Smith will still be waiting for them at the crease.