Stuart Broad eliminated the prolific David Warner for just 16 out of 44 for one, as England try to somehow avoid a series whitewash at the SCG.
To that end, they picked three debutants here - for the first time in almost eight years - Gary Ballance, Boyd Rankin and Scott Borthwick respectively coming in for Joe Root, Tim Bresnan and Monty Panesar.
Alastair Cook then won his first toss of the winter, and decided to try to take advantage of a green-tinged pitch before the Sydney sun got to work.
Broad went in search of wickets, while James Anderson bowled a more conservative length from the Paddington End.
Warner had just taken three fours from Broad's previous over, and passed 500 runs for the series, when he paid little respect to a decent delivery which beat a flaky shot and hit the top of off-stump.
New batsman Shane Watson then promptly drove his first ball, from Broad, through extra-cover for four, and soon clicked into similar mode against first-change Ben Stokes.
With a hint of swing around, but no more, Melbourne centurion Chris Rogers was in characteristically more stoic mood to ensure a steady start for the hosts.