BRISBANE (AFP) - England's James Vince was left kicking himself after he was spectacularly run out close to an Ashes debut century, as Australia struck late to leave the first Test finely balanced after day one on Thursday.
Captain Joe Root and Alastair Cook both fell cheaply before the tourists reached 196 for four when bad light ended an attritional, rain-affected day at Brisbane's Gabba ground.
Vince top-scored as the tourists went along slowly, blunting Australia's much-vaunted pace attack at a venue dubbed "The Gabbatoir".
But Australia loosened England's hard-earned advantage when they dismissed Vince late on, just prior to the key wicket of Root who went leg before wicket to Pat Cummins. At stumps, Dawid Malan was batting on 28 along with Moeen Ali, whose 13 included the day's only six.
Vince, on 83, scampered for a quick single off Josh Hazlewood but a brilliant off-balance throw from Nathan Lyon prowling in the covers caught him well out of his ground. It was a moment of triumph for the spinner, who is normally taciturn but who gained notoriety for telling the tourists that Australia aimed to "end careers" in the Ashes series.
"It was a good piece of fielding. In hindsight I wouldn't have taken the run, but it was a good pick-up and throw to be fair," Vince said. "I'm sure lying in bed I'll have a few thoughts about it (missing out), but at the same time if you had offered me scoring 80-odd I probably would have taken it."
Vince, who was earlier put down by recalled wicket-keeper Tim Paine off Lyon, led a fighting English rearguard with Mark Stoneman after the early loss of Cook.
It took a special piece of fielding from Lyon to end Vince's 170-ball, four-hour vigil and give the Australians hope on a rugged first day on an unresponsive Gabba pitch. Eighteen runs later, Root fell lbw to Cummins for 15 off 50 balls after a review, in a another huge scalp for the toiling Australians.
"In terms of a fast bowler's wicket, it's pretty much the dream wicket. One of the most satisfying I've ever got," Cummins said. "If the ball is swinging, to set him up with a couple of overs of out-swing, then try to bowl one big in-swinger, it probably only comes off one in a hundred times.
"But when it does it's pretty special."
Australia have a formidable record at the intimidating Gabba, where they have not lost a Test match since 1988, and where England haven't won in 31 years.
But Vince and Stoneman had few problems mastering Australia's fast bowling trio before Cummins bowled Stoneman, the Surrey opening bat, between his bat and pad for 53 nearing tea.
It looked as though Vince would go on and crown his resilient innings with a century after passing his previous highest Test score of 42. He survived a big moment nearing tea when he edged Lyon on 68, only for the deflection to bounce away off the top of the gloves of Paine.
Vince put on a 125-run second-wicket stand with Stoneman as the Australian bowling attack struggled on a slow-paced Gabba pitch. It was a spirited recovery after the early wicket of Cook in the third over.
The former England captain only lasted 10 balls before he edged pace spearhead Mitchell Starc to Peter Handscomb at first slip for just two.
It continued an uncertain start to the Ashes tour for Cook, who amassed 766 runs in England's 3-1 series victory in 2010-2011 but who has just one half-century in five innings on the current visit. Stoneman continued his prolific form following his century and three half-centuries in the four innings of the warm-up games.