England v Australia, 5th npower Test, The Oval, 4th day August 23, 2009

'This is just a stepping stone' - Strauss

Andrew Strauss insists England have learned from their post-2005 mistakes and will use their stunning Ashes victory as a springboard to higher honours. England's series win four years ago was honoured with an open-top bus parade through Trafalgar Square, a round of MBEs and a meeting with the Queen at Buckingham Palace; a response many felt eroded the team's focus in future series.

England won just two of their next ten Tests after the 2005 Ashes, and suffered an embarassing 5-0 defeat at the hands of Australia two years later. Injuries to key personnel undoubtedly played a role in England's decline, however it was also felt the team basked in the glory of their Ashes victory far too long while losses to Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka mounted.

Strauss said England's ambitions were now loftier than Ashes success, and challenged his players to further establish their Test credentials on the winter tour of South Africa. England's victory at The Oval allowed Graeme Smith's men to overthrow Australia as the top-ranked Test nation, ensuring England will now play back-to-back series against the world's No. 1 Test team.

"The last time we hadn't won the Ashes for 17 years or so," Strauss said. "It was almost a step into the unknown for all of us. No one in the team had won an Ashes series before. This time, there were a few in the side that have. I think we've also got to be conscious of the fact that this is just a stepping stone. It's not the end in itself.

"We're not the No.1 side in the world, we're far from it, and we're honest enough to admit that. To become the No. 1 side in the world you have to win consistently home and away, and our next challenge is a massive one. Away in South Africa is probably as hard a tour as you can go on. We can take confidence from this. The long term goal is to be No.1 in the world but it's going to take a lot of graft to get there.

"We're a young side and we can get better than we are at the moment. We're still pretty inconsistent as we've ably demonstrated this series. But we've shown some guts and determination and character."

The ballast provided by Strauss and Andy Flower since assuming their leadership roles has been crucial in reviving a team with a recent penchant for instability. An Ashes victory in the same year as the Pietersen-Moores row and the humiliation of Sabina Park was considered improbable in the extreme several months ago, and Strauss credited much of the team's success to the influence of Flower.

"The England coach is a massive job and Andy's fallen straight in and hit the ground running," Strauss said. "One of the important things is having a vision of where you need to go. That's something we've had to sit down and think about. The most important thing is driving that vision through.

"For those of us who go on the pitch we can do a certain amount but you need guys pushing and pushing it, going out for dinner with people, chatting with people in a quiet corner - being almost relentless in your vision and how you aim to get there. It's encouraging to me to hear guys in the team speaking about this as a fantastic team. Once you start getting that feeling you become greater than the sum of your parts. That's something we will continue working on. We're not going to relinquish that easily."

England's victory at The Oval inside four days has earned them an extra 24 hours to shake-off their post-Ashes hangovers before boarding a flight to Belfast for the one-day international against Ireland. The aftermath of the team's 2009 triumph over Australia could scarcely be more contrasting to that of four years ago, when the likes of Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Flintoff and Michael Vaughan were paraded around the streets of London amid great fanfare.

"There will be some celebrations tonight but I don't think there will be a massive fanfare this time," Strauss said. He did, however, observe the significance of Sunday's result. "I suppose it is better than 2005 for me because I've captained the side," he continued. "We've moved forward from 2005: there are different personalities involved, a different management team as well. Any time you win an Ashes series it's an unbelievably special moment for all of us

"Over the course of an Ashes series everyone has to stand up. That's the reality. In an Ashes series there is nowhere to hide. Weaknesses will be exploited and the guys have got to deal with a lot of off-field stuff as well. They have done that and we have come through."

Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo