BRISBANE, Nov 23 – Australia fought back with two late wickets to restrict England to 196 for four and leave the Ashes series-opener in Brisbane delicately poised on Thursday after the tourists’ unheralded batsmen threatened to dominate an intriguing first day.
Ashes debutants Mark Stoneman and James Vince had frustrated Australia’s vaunted pace attack with a 125-run partnership on a slow Gabba wicket but seamer Pat Cummins hauled the home side back in the game.
The young paceman bowled Stoneman for 53 in the last over before tea then returned to capture England captain Joe Root lbw for 15, leaving Moeen Ali and Dawid Malan to negotiate a nervy finish to stumps.
Spinner Nathan Lyon denied Vince a potentially career-defining century with a brilliant piece of fielding, running him out for 83 after nearly four hours of pain-staking graft.
Malan was 28 not out and Moeen on 13, with both sides having fought hard after Root won the toss and sent his team into bat.
England would have been buoyed by the performance of rookies Vince and Stoneman but tempered by the disappointment that neither could go on to make bigger scores.
Stoneman was bowled four balls short of the relief of tea, while Vince was out making a needless dash for a single.
Vince’s wicket seemed like a turning point and though Root dug in for 50 balls, he was out lbw by a scorching delivery from Cummins, the wicket awarded after home captain Steve Smith demanded a review of Marais Erasmus’s not out decision.
Cummins greeted Moeen with a short ball that hammered into his upper body.
Unperturbed, the all-rounder drove Cummins for four and casually despatched Lyon for six with a slog sweep over deep midwicket a few overs later.
Australia lost a review trying to remove Malan lbw in the last over before play was halted due to poor light.
Vince, England’s surprise selection at number three, brought up his maiden 50 in his eighth test, having never before surpassed 42 in his previous seven matches.
Stoneman raised his 50 with a streaky edge off Cummins, the ball falling short of second slip before racing off for two, leaving fielder Peter Handscomb punching the turf in frustration.
Worse was to come for the hosts in the following over as recalled wicketkeeper Tim Paine grassed a chance to have Vince out for 68 when he nicked Lyon behind.
Paine had taken Matthew Wade’s place in the test squad in a surprising selection, beating out Peter Nevill, and the miss saw Smith fling his head back in exasperation.
While the Gabba wicket showed a green tinge, Smith said he too would have batted first and his fast men rarely threatened early, struggling to extract much pace or movement off the seam in the morning.
The exception was a peach of a delivery from paceman Mitchell Starc which moved away slightly from Alastair Cook and kissed the outside edge on the way to Handscomb in the slips.
Smith earlier confirmed opener David Warner and Shaun Marsh would play after they suffered neck and back strains in recent days.