England must kick on from Ashes glory to rule world, says Vaughan

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The Independent Online

Despite beating Australia - the No 1 side in the world - Vaughan's men are still tucked in behind the old enemy, according to the International Cricket Council Test rankings.

But, with his head clearing after a long night of celebrations, an emotionally draining hour's journey through the City of London to Trafalgar Square - where England were fêted by hundreds of thousands of fans - and a visit to No 10 Downing Street to meet the Prime Minister Tony Blair, Vaughan showed there was nothing clouding his vision or his judgment as he looked into the future.

"We have talked about the ICC rankings," he said, after the formal presentation of the original (and very fragile) Ashes urn in a modest ceremony at Lord's yesterday afternoon, "but as a team we try to win every series we go into.

"We have two tough series against Pakistan and India coming up in the winter, and if we win those I am sure that will help our place in those rankings."

The Australians maintain to a man that they are still the top dogs because they have been winning home and away for the best part of a decade. But in the aftermath of one of the most momentous series witnessed in this country, Vaughan pointed out: "We have beaten Australia, and we have beaten them over a five-Test series and you have to play well to do that.

"Expectations now are high, but I am sure we can live up to them, because there is no point playing well and winning against Australia then living off it for the rest of our lives."

England supporters can rest assured that England will go to the subcontinent fully prepared and with plans in place how to deal with Pakistan and India, because it was planning which brought about the Aussies' downfall. Vaughan revealed how meticulous the preparations had been, saying: "I probably lied when I said I wasn't thinking about the Ashes 18 months ago because we were planning a long way ahead.

"We were trying to get the right formula. We were talking in depth of how we should play against Australia, the body language, the positive approach, how important it was to hit them hard early on."

The Ashes triumph clearly acted like a truth drug, as Vaughan also said: "I talked down the Twenty20 contest earlier this season as well, because I didn't want to build it up, but the team knew it was an important day for us. We intended to hit Australia hard, and let them know that we were not going to be bullied. It has just been fantastic the way everybody responded to everything that we said."

And yesterday he marvelled at the reaction of the country to the victory. "I never imagined cricket could reach this popularity. There were people hanging out of office windows and climbing on to roofs of buildings wanting to celebrate a great summer of cricket. Cricket is being talked about in the country, and that can only be good for the game."

The one place cricket was not being talked about was in Downing Street, according to Vaughan, who did confess to feeling a bit hungover, unsurprising given that the post-match celebrations spilled over into yesterday. Almost every player, when interviewed for television, spoke in a hoarse voice, legacy of a late liquid night and lots of talking and singing.

"The Prime Minister has been watching the cricket throughout the summer," said Vaughan. "He went around the whole team talking to them, but most of his questions concerned what everyone did last night."

The success of the parade vindicated Mike Soper, the deputy chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board. It was as chairman of the now defunct First Class Forum that Soper attracted the ridicule of many. "Three years ago I was castigated because I said I wanted cricket to be as popular as football," he said. "Looking at this response by the English public, we are just about there."

Lord MacLaurin, the former ECB chairman, added: "I did not realise the enormity of the passion in this country for beating the Australians and winning the Ashes." He does now.