Australia’s run of dominant form in the lead-up to the Ashes was soiled on a day of toil in Chelmsford.
Michael Clarke’s men thumped the West Indies in last month’s two-Test series, then cruised to a 255-run win over Kent last week.
Australia started day two of their four-day clash with Essex, a final tune-up before the Ashes begins in Cardiff on Wednesday, quite well.
Mitch Marsh continued his eye-catching Ashes audition by scoring 169 to help build a commanding first-innings total of 562.
However, the allrounder couldn’t produce the same magic with the ball after lunch.
Nobody in Australia’s attack could, with the hosts reaching 3-299 at stumps.
Tom Westley, promoted to open due to Nick Browne’s finger injury, crafted his 10th first-class century.
Westley was finally out for 144 in the third last over of the day, when Mitchell Starc skittled the stumps.
Play finished soon after when nightwatchman Jamie Porter was also bowled by Starc.
Ravi Bopara, who played four Tests in England’s 2009 Ashes win, will resume on 86.
Starc started with a loose wide and, like Josh Hazlewood, failed to strike with the new ball.
They both extracted good bounce from the docile pitch, but were unable to build enough pressure to create the first breakthrough on a day that featured two rain delays.
Peter Siddle was responsible for the visitors’ early source of joy in the field, bowling Jaik Mickleburgh for 29.
Siddle’s control made him the pick of the bowlers, while he also struck Westley on the body with a ball on a perfectly awkward length.
Shane Watson outperformed Marsh with the ball, but neither allrounder conjured up a wicket.
Nathan Lyon wasn’t called into the attack until the 24th over.
Bopara and Westley used their feet well against the offspinner and weren’t afraid to attack.
Lyon’s opening five overs went for 54 runs, while he finished with figures of 0-110 from 19 overs.
Clarke tweaked his field and rotated his bowlers regularly.
None of it worked until Starc went around the wicket.
The only clear-cut chance came from Bopara, who danced down the wicket and misread a delivery from Lyon on 35.
He should have been stumped, but stand-in keeper Peter Nevill was unable to collect the ball cleanly.
A scrambling Adam Voges then put down a catch late, when the ball swirled between him and Mitchell Starc.