Kevin Pietersen’s 78 helped England amass 294 all out in Melbourne but Watson’s outstanding knock – the fifth highest limited-overs total by an Australian – swept the home side past the imposing target with five balls to spare.
“If we had taken early wickets we would have been right ahead of the game,” said Strauss. “They needed someone to anchor it and Shane Watson did that brilliantly. The defeat is hard to swallow, but we’ll come back stronger in Hobart.”
Watson, who clinched the triumph with a six off Ajmal Shahzad, said he planned to use the time off before Friday’s second match to visit his parents in flood-hit Queensland.
“It’s going to be heart-wrenching to see the devastation,” he said. “My mind and heart have been there, I haven’t really been thinking about the cricket too much to be honest.”
The result follows Australia’s win in the second Twenty20 clash last week, and England’s 3-1 success in the Ashes series.