High aims drive on Strauss to take his developing team to the top of the pile

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Only Ming the Merciless and Fu Manchu have outlined their plans for world domination with the frequency and fervour of England's cricketers.

But Andrew Strauss is adamant that oft-repeated aim is now realistic following England's successful retention of the Ashes.

The England captain, whose side have jumped to No 3 in the world after establishing a 2-1 lead against Australia to retain the Ashes, believes they can now leapfrog current No 1 India and No 2 South Africa.

It is the same lofty ambition that was rendered risible after England failed to build on their 2005 Ashes success – on paper a much more significant achievement.

However, after becoming the first England captain to retain the Ashes since Mike Brearley in 1979, Strauss made clear: "English cricket is not just about winning the Ashes.

"We have to look forward to the future and get our team up those rankings and to world No 1.

"That is the ultimate goal for us and we have to take a lot of small steps on the way to doing that.

"I get the feeling we can still improve as a side, and that is very motivating."

Strauss conceded he had been slightly surprised by the outstanding performances of his bowling attack.

"I always thought there was a huge amount of talent at our disposal, and maybe we didn't realise how much there was," he added.

"The likes of Tremlett, Bresnan, Shahzad – maybe we didn't know how much talent there was in county cricket.

"Those guys have come in and delivered and I don't feel there's any reason why we can't go on and do better things.

"But if we get away from what has got us here and start patting ourselves on the back too much, we'll go backwards again."

Strauss acknowledged there is plenty still to do on this tour - let alone beyond.

"In reality, the job is a long way off being done," he stressed, with the series finale starting on Sunday in Sydney, when England will look to complete the victory.

"This is one series, and, as a side, we've still got a lot of goals we want to achieve.

"It is reassuring to know the Ashes are going to remain in England for another couple of years, but it will leave a very sour taste in the mouth if we are not able to go on and convert our position into a series win in Sydney.

"Our objective was to come out and win the series and we haven't achieved that yet."

Strauss believes England have learned lessons from their 5-0 hammering on the last Ashes tour.

"The one thing that struck me as an opening batsman in that series was the feeling of being suffocated from both ends all the time," he added.

"I think that was the basis of our strategy out here: to make sure that Australia never got away from us, and if we did that well and consistently that would bring us wickets."

The humiliation this time is all Australia's, with Ricky Ponting conceding his team had let their country down.

Ponting, the first Australia captain since Billy Murdoch in 1890 to 'lose' three Ashes series, admitted he was contemplating his future but insisted he wanted to stay in charge.

"Whatever decision I make, it's really important it's for the betterment of Australian cricket," said Ponting, who has managed just 113 runs in the series at 16.14.

"I want to keep playing, I would love to keep leading the team and I still think I've got a lot to offer in both those regards.

"I hope I'm not remembered as the guy who lost three Ashes series; it's such a huge series for all the players and fans around the cricketing world.

"We feel we have let ourselves down and we feel we have let the cricket public of Australia down," he added.