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Steven Finn brought England back into the first Ashes Test as bowlers held sway on an overcast opening day at Nottingham's Trent Bridge on Wednesday.
At stumps, Australia were 75 for four in reply to England's seemingly meagre 215, a deficit of 140 runs, after 14 wickets had fallen in the day's play.
Fast bowler Finn took two wickets in two balls before England spearhead James Anderson produced a superb delivery to clean bowl Australia captain Michael Clarke, the tourists' best batsman, for nought.
Steven Smith, not even in the original Ashes squad, was 38 not out and Phil Hughes, no longer an opener but batting at six, seven not out as floodlights pierced the gloom.
Australia's bowling always looked significantly stronger than their batting, with the key to the tourists' hopes of regaining the Ashes appearing to rest on the performance of their top order.
New Australia coach Darren Lehmann decided to restore Shane Watson to his preferred spot at the top of the order.
But Watson, who in 41 previous Tests had managed just two hundreds, was out in familiar fashion when he pushed forward firmly against Finn without adjusting for away movement and was caught by third slip Joe Root for 13.
Next ball Australia were 19 for two when Ed Cowan, who spent the early part of the season at Trent Bridge, with Nottinghamshire, carelessly chased a wide delivery and was caught at second slip by county colleague Graeme Swann.
Clarke came in on a hat-trick, which he survived narrowly after Finn missed both the outside edge and off stump by fractions.
But Clarke lasted just five more balls with Anderson producing a near unplayable delivery that angled in and seamed away late to hit off stump.
Australia had lost three wickets for three runs to be 22 for three and this with regular England new ball bowler Stuart Broad off the field with a shoulder injury suffered while batting.
Opener Chris Rogers, recalled for his second Test five years after his debut, hung on for over an hour.
But the 35-year-old veteran of the English county circuit was eventually lbw for 16 to Anderson, bowling from around the wicket.
Left-hander Rogers reviewed Kumar Dharmasena's decision but, with technology indicating the ball would have clipped leg stump, the Sri Lankan umpire's verdict was upheld and Australia were 53 for four.
Smith seizing on anything loose, struck five fours and boldly went down the pitch to drive off-spinner Swann for the first six of the match.
Earlier, Australia fast medium-bowler Peter Siddle took five wickets for 50 runs after England captain Alastair Cook won the toss, with Jonathan Trott's 48 the hosts' top score.
Siddle's haul was his latest impressive start to an Ashes series after he took six for 54, including a hat-trick, on the opening day of the 2010/11 series at Brisbane.
Cook scored a mammoth 766 runs during England's 3-1 win that campaign.
But in his first Ashes Test as captain, Cook was caught behind off James Pattinson for just 13.
Root, in his first Ashes Test and first as an opener, made a promising 30 before he was bowled off-stump by Siddle's excellent outswinging yorker.
Trott was soon into his stride with a cover-driven four off Pattinson and greeted the first ball from shock teenage debutant Ashton Agar by cover-driving a full toss from the 19-year-old left-arm spinner for four.
England, notoriously slow starters in recent Test series, lost star batsman Kevin Pietersen for 14 shortly after lunch when he nicked Siddle to Clarke in the slips.
Trott was in good touch and struck nine fours before Siddle, bowling from wide on the crease, induced him to play on.
A criticism of Ian Bell is he's rarely made runs when England most needed them and Wednesday was an example.
Bell had made 25, 24 in boundaries, when he edged a half-cock shot off Siddle to Watson in the slips.