England's seamers managed two Australian wickets in the first 15 overs at The Oval in the absence of the injured James Anderson on Sunday morning.
The tourists, hoping to level at 1-1 in this second NatWest Series match, chose to bat first and progressed to 71 for two.
Anderson, nursing a 'tight groin' from Saturday's series opener at Lord's, was replaced by Jade Dernbach, who took the new ball for England alongside Steven Finn.
The latter got the dangerous David Warner early, mistiming a pull for an easy catch into the leg-side ring.
England could have done with Shane Watson too, and would have seen him off had Jonathan Trott managed to hold a catch slightly to his right in the gully as the batsman got a thick outside edge on an attempted push to leg at Dernbach.
After a half-hour rain stoppage midway through the 12th over, Watson and number three Peter Forrest - brought in here to replace Steve Smith with George Bailey dropping down to number six - had to start again.
They had taken 12 runs off Tim Bresnan's first over and were soon into their stride again in a half-century stand on a pitch which promised plenty of runs.
Stuart Broad interrupted their momentum, though, when he had Forrest deflecting the ball down the leg-side, where a diving Craig Kieswetter took a very good catch.