England failed to make the inroads into the Australian batting order they needed after gambling on bowling first in the inaugural day-night Ashes test in Adelaide on Saturday and the hosts reached the second break on 138 for two.
Cameron Bancroft was run out after a 90-minute rain delay and David Warner was caught behind for 47 but Usman Khawaja survived a scare to finish the extended session on 53 not out with his skipper Steve Smith unbeaten on 25.
Joe Root’s decision to put Australia in to bat after a resounding 10-wicket defeat in the series opener on Monday was always going to be controversial, going as it did against the captain’s mantra of “always bat first”.
His gamble needed England’s pacemen to put intense pressure on the batsmen from the start of the day but James Anderson and Stuart Broad bowled too short and failed to threaten the Australian wickets in a rain-disrupted opening session.
Warner has long shed the rash aggression of earlier in his career and he and Bancroft bided their time, picking off the occasional boundary to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
England got a break they probably did not deserve four balls into the second session when Warner ignored another cricketing mantra, “never run off a misfield”.
The left-handed opener called for a run when Moeen Ali fumbled the ball before changing his mind and leaving Bancroft (10) stranded as Chris Woakes shied the wickets.
Broad, who managed to push the batsmen back more regularly in the second session, produced the first big appeal for lbw off the next ball and the record crowd of more than 53,000 fans came alive.
As all-rounder Moeen, who had been an injury doubt because of a finger problem, came on to bowl his spin, the sun finally poked through the grey bank of clouds and England’s Barmy Army of fans were roused into voice.
Warner quietened them by smacking fours off consecutive balls to give debutant Craig Overton, who was preferred to Jake Ball in the only change to the England side, a bruising welcome to test cricket.
Khawaja then belied his supposed susceptibility to spin by smashing two fours from one Moeen over and it was not until England’s bowlers had gone more than 80 overs over the last two tests without taking a wicket that Warner departed.
Woakes did the damage, luring the Australia vice captain into a thick edge that Jonny Bairstow swallowed up behind the stumps.
The seamer should have had his second wicket before the end of the session but Mark Stoneman dropped a Khawaja top edge at deep backward square and the left-hander had time to bring up his ninth half century with a crisp four to third man.