Michael Vaughan was today set to lead England on an open-top bus parade through London to celebrate his country's first Ashes triumph in a generation - but he is already planning his team's next great challenge too.

Vaughan last night enjoyed the moment of triumph, alongside series-clinching batsman Kevin Pietersen, after a hard-fought draw at The Oval had seen off Australia 2-1 to win the Ashes for the first time since 1986-87.

But the captain acknowledges England's emergence as a force at the top of the world cricket rankings has to be consolidated - starting with this winter's trips to the sub-continent to face Pakistan before Christmas and then India next spring.

Vaughan doubts whether the furore of the 2005 Ashes can ever be approached again - however successful England go on to be in the years to come - but he is determined to try to bring his team's supporters the lasting success they crave.

"The response the public has given us throughout the whole summer means I am not too sure cricket will ever get to the same level again," said Vaughan.

"I hope it does and I play in many more like this - but it is unlikely. It has been an extraordinary team effort, and I am just the lucky one who picked up the urn."

World cricket is yet to see an official change in its power base, according to International Cricket Council rankings which still have Australia clear at the top - and Vaughan is prepared to accept this summer's beaten tourists are still top dogs.

"They have won home and away for a number of years, and we have yet to win on the sub-continent as a side. That challenge comes this winter in India and Pakistan," he said.

While Vaughan was sanguine enough amid the scenes of celebration to assess the merits of his side, Pietersen was in the middle of the best day of his life as the South Africa-born batsman's maiden hundred sealed England's success.

He struck 158 to defy Australia on the final day of a series which has tested nerves and skill in equal measure throughout.

The action was as fraught yesterday as at any time over the past two months, Pietersen's 158 keeping the Australians at bay long enough to preclude any hope of a last-ditch run chase.

The 25-year-old had luck on his side - not least when dropped at slip by his great friend and rival Shane Warne on 15 - but it was his contribution which put England out of reach during a final session which eventually saw Vaughan's men bowled out for 335.

Warne finished with 12 wickets in the match and 40 in the series - but yesterday belonged to Pietersen more than anyone.

"I would be stupid to say I have ever had a better day,"he said. "That is the best innings I will ever play - with all the circumstances it would be difficult to beat that."

""Everybody loves being in each other's company in this team. The whole summer has been fantastic.