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Kevin Pietersen smashed his first ever Test century to earn the draw that gave England a 2-1 series win and the Ashes for the first time since 1987.

Pietersen, who was dropped twice, hit 158 and Ashley Giles 59 before England were bowled out for 335 at The Oval, to snuff out Australian hopes of victory.

Australia batted for just four balls before bad light intervened, and a draw was eventually declared by the umpires. {{more}}

The result brings to an end a series many have dubbed the “best ever”.

The Queen and Prime Minister Tony Blair led the tributes to captain Michael Vaughan and his victorious team after the match.

The champagne flowed as soon as Vaughan lifted the tiny brown Ashes urn aloft and they were showered in ticker tape and streamers.

The players then completed a victory lap of the Oval pitch to salute the 23,000-strong crowd that had roared them on all day.

Fans had spread onto the roofs and balconies of houses around the south London ground, and also celebrated in style, as did the country at large.

Yet England had been in trouble early on the final day of the fifth Test, losing four wickets before lunch, and leading by just 133 with five hours left.

But Pietersen’s super knock, which saw him named man of the match, guided them home.

In his final Test in England, Shane Warne took the last two wickets to finish with 6-124 and 12 wickets for the match, taking his career haul of England wickets to a record 172.

However, he had little to celebrate as Australia’s batsmen faced just four balls before play was stopped in confused circumstances and then abandoned after a 15-minute stand-off.

Pietersen hit seven sixes to set a new Ashes record for an England batsman.

McGrath had Michael Vaughan caught behind for 45 and saw Ian Bell edge to slip in the ninth over of the day.

Pietersen survived the hat-trick ball, which reared up to bounce off his shoulder and into the hands of Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting.

There was another sharp intake of breath before he got off the mark, when an edge caught keeper Adam Gilchrist’s glove and was then missed by Matthew Hayden at slip.

Warne bowled 32 consecutive overs from the Vauxhall End and was dazzling early on as he ripped a leg-break out of the footholds to trap Marcus Trescothick lbw for 33.

Pietersen’s aggression, combined with some gritty batting from Paul Collingwood and then Giles wore the veteran leg-spinner down.

Collingwood contributed 10 to a sixth-wicket stand of 60 that began to shift the momentum in England’s direction, before Giles contributed a vital knock.

Pietersen hit seven sixes in all, beating Ian Botham’s Ashes record of six in an innings, set at Old Trafford in 1981.

But it was the fifth, a hook over square leg off Brett Lee, which hammered in the final nail, taking the England lead past the 250 mark with 39 overs left to Australia.

By the time he was bowled by McGrath, England were 314 ahead and the teams were left to go through the motions.