Updated: Thursday, 26 December 2013 08:52 | By Agence France-Presse

England make steady start after being sent in

Alastair Cook and Michael Carberry gave beleaguered England a confident start after the tourists were sent into bat on the opening morning of the fourth Ashes Test on Thursday.


England make steady start after being sent in

England captain Alastair Cook (C) drives a ball as Australian players Shane Watson (L) and Michael Clarke (R) look on on the first day of the fourth Ashes cricket Test played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), in Melbourne on December 26, 2013

Australia captain Michael Clarke, with the Ashes already secured with a 3-0 series lead, won the toss and attempted to put the pressure straight on the tourists under overcast skies but the move had no early reward.

England got to first drinks without losing a wicket for 44 runs with Cook on 25 and Carberry not out 18.

Carberry was dropped on two in the seventh over when he edged Ryan Harris to the slips cordon.

Third slipper Steve Smith dived across Michael Clarke but could not take the difficult catch with his outstretched left hand, giving Carberry a life.

Cook was in nice touch and took eight runs off Mitchell Johnson's opening over and then hit him to the cover boundary in his next over.

Clarke alternated his bowlers in the opening hour with Peter Siddle coming on after just two Johnson overs and spinner Nathan Lyon into the attack in the 10th over of the innings.

In the 19 tosses Clarke has had as Australia skipper it was only the fourth time he has put the opposing team into bat.

"I can't believe I'm saying this. We're going to have a bowl first," Clarke said at the toss. "There's enough moisture and grass on the wicket. I think what's made my mind up is more the overhead conditions."

England dropped vice-captain Matt Prior and named Jonny Bairstow as wicketkeeper, while Monty Panesar was chosen as the specialist spinner following the shock mid-series retirement of Graeme Swann.

It is the first time since August 2008 that England have gone into a Test without Jonathan Trott, Prior or Swann.

Prior, a 31-year-old veteran of England's three consecutive Ashes wins over Australia since 2009, has played 75 Tests.

Prior has averaged 17.83 with the bat in the series. The 31-year-old made crucial mistakes behind the stumps in the third Test in Perth leading to his demotion.

Australia, who have already wrapped up the Ashes following their series-sealing victory in the third Perth Test before Christmas, named an unchanged side for the fourth consecutive Test.

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