A strong evening session from hosts Australia saw them emerge from Day 1 of the Melbourne Test as the happier of the two sides, reducing England to 226-6 after 89 overs.
England have a lot to thank the much-maligned Kevin Pietersen for, with a resolute innings of 67 not out comfortably the tourists' strongest contribution of the day.
Having enjoyed the better of slow morning and afternoon sessions, however, there will be great disappointment at the way Australia were allowed to take control in the evening session.
|A Cook||c Clarke b Siddle||27||70||47|
|M Carberry||B Watson||38||145||103|
|J Root||c Haddin b Harris||24||115||82|
|K Pietersen||not out||67||242||152|
|Bell||c Haddin b Harris||27||120||98|
|Stokes||c Watson b Johnson||14||33||23|
|Extras||1nb 1w 10b 6lb||18|
Michael Clarke won a fourth consecutive toss of the series and opted, for the first time, to put England in to bat with the hope of capitalising upon overcast conditions above the MCG.
However, it was England's openers who got off to a strong start as Alastair Cook and Michael Carberry showed positive intent to see off the first hour and the dangerous new ball.
However, having done well to reach 27, captain Cook would become England's first casualty of the day with the score on 48 as he edged the ball to opposite number Clarke from the bowling of Peter Siddle.
Over 91,000 watching #England vs Australia - what a wonderful thing to happen for the sport.— aidan (@englandyouth) December 26, 2013
Carberry would be joined by Joe Root and once more the pair continued to add runs, albeit at a slower pace than in the opening hour.
England went in for lunch at 71-1 but would soon lose Carberry in the afternoon session. The Hampshire batsman undid his strong start as he shouldered arms to a Shane Watson ball that nipped back from outside the off stump.
Root was the next to go 10 runs later, finding a thin edge from Ryan Harris to wicket keeper Brad Haddin to reduce the tourists to 106-3 midway through the afternoon.
Ian Bell was the next man in, joining Pietersen at the crease as England were once more forced to rebuild what had been a promising innings.
It was slow and gruelling progress that lasted well into the evening session, but the pair made significant headway to add 67 runs to the total only for Bell to edge another excellent delivery from Harris to Haddin behind the stumps.
Ben Stokes, who had been a centurion in Perth, was the next to come in. He initially looked promising but also saw himself reaching double figures before heading back to the pavilion as a Mitchell Johnson delivery found the outside edge and Watson in the slips.
THAT IS OUT - Man against a boy there. Bairstow offers Johnson a gateway to wickets. Nowhere near in line and off stump bent back 216-6— Dean Wilson (@CricketMirror) December 26, 2013
Chosen ahead of Matt Prior at wicket keeper, Jonny Bairstow was the next man to the crease but would also fail to contribute significantly as Johnson worked over his perceived technical weakness and brought a ball back through the gate to clip the top of off stump.
At the other end, Pietersen had by now ground his way to one of the less-fluid half centuries of his England career, including being dropped low by George Bailey early in the evening.
While he has faced criticism, he stuck with the task at hand on this occasion and it will be the hope of a strong performance from their leading man that England will cling on to overnight.
Pietersen celebrates becoming England's 4th highest Test run scorer of all time with a thunderous off drive for four.— Dean Wilson (@CricketMirror) December 26, 2013
Tim Bresnan (1 not out) and Stuart Broad are all that remain in the way of real support for Pietersen as he seeks to drag his side to a respectable score, but he will hope that one or both of the duo can stick around for a while when he resumes on Day 2.
It had all promised to be so much better for England and nearly every batsman made a strong start to their innings, only to get out without building upon that opening.
There have been worse days on the tour this winter, but the Three Lions will be regretting the flurry of three evening wickets that leaves Australia firing at the English tail with what is still a relatively new ball.