Strauss gives full credit to Merlyn's dark arts

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The Independent Online

The magic of Merlyn, the leg-spinning bowling machine has helped the England opener, as he acknowledged after scoring his second hundred of the series.

"Merlyn's played a pretty big part in the series for me," said an exhausted Strauss, "but there is no substitute for being out in the middle and facing Shane Warne.

"I am looking to hit him in different areas now from where I was hitting him earlier in the series. But Warne has been awesome all series and today was no exception. Early on he wasn't getting much turn, but he was able to skid the ball through. The variety he has is remarkable and it is a fantastic effort to take five wickets on the first day."

Warne's first words after his long, hard day were: "I'm tired." But with his customary humour, Warne, a smoker, added: "I was proud of my efforts today. I bowled 34 overs, 18 of them on the trot, which shows what a fit athlete I am."

He then singled out Strauss for a few warm words. "I thought Strauss played pretty well today. He'd be the first to admit that he had a bit of luck, but a hundred is a hundred and in the context of this Test match it's a great effort."

But for all Strauss's effort, Warne still felt Australia closed the day with their noses in front. "I think things are slightly in our favour. But tomorrow it is important that we knock over the last three wickets quickly and keep England under 350."

And he is confident that they will succeed. "That is the best we have bowled on the first day for some time. Today we managed to get bowling partnerships going."

But Warne, who dismissed anxieties about a possible injury to his right shoulder by saying it was just "a little bit sore", predicted a key role for England's left-arm spinner Ashley Giles as the match progresses. "It's a flat pitch, really flat, and they are going to rely on Ashley Giles. He will be a major player as the game goes on."

Throughout the day there had been a distinctly Neighbours or Home And Away atmosphere on the streets in London SE 11.

Of the unlucky thousands locked out of the revamped cricket ground a few of the more fortunate, and possibly wealthier ones, had managed to find themselves a vantage point beyond the boundary.

Youthful faces were crammed in open windows between lessons in the nearby Archbishop Tenison's School, while people were perched on window ledges in blocks of flats. Builders on a nearby repair job surrendered to temptation, especially once Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff got to the crease, and sat astride the hip tiles of a roof.

Someone, reportedly a national newspaper, had rented a top-floor flat on the gas-holder side of the ground for £23,000.

But other top-floor flats in the same block were open house for fans, and on the balcony of a flat in another building, was a gaggle of Aussies, who had dubbed their balcony "Baggy Green Beach". They even had some sand from the old country in a sealed sandwich bag.

There the rent was a more modest £250 per week ­ but they were forced to stand on chairs placed on the balcony in order to follow the action.