Michael Clarke may have tossed it away if it wasn't for quicks

Michael Clarke did not know what to do when he won the toss at the MCG on Thursday, but the form of Australia's resurgent fast bowlers meant there were no Boxing Day blushes for their captain.

An hour into the game it seemed like Clarke may have pulled the wrong rein, however, another outstanding display by his quicks left England in an all-too-familiar position after the first day of the fourth Test.

In the 20 Tests where Clarke has won the toss he has chosen to bowl on only four occasions, but his band of pacemen was eager to take advantage of the seam-friendly conditions.

"It was difficult," paceman Ryan Harris said. "I think Michael wanted to lose this one and didn't know what to do. When he left for the toss he was batting. There was a bit of moisture in it [the pitch]. I was hoping to bowl to be honest."

An hour in and it seemed Clarke may not have made the right call as Alastair Cook and Michael Carberry made batting look easy for England. But the honours were undoubtedly with Australia several hours later after England stuttered to 6-226 at stumps.

"We didn't start off as well as we'd have liked," Harris said. "When you win the toss and bowl you want to make sure you're on and firing from both ends. We probably didn't do that. Once again, we pulled it back: 6-220 (sic) at the end of the day, with three chances down as well, it's a pretty good day, I think."

The rewards came somewhat belatedly, Mitchell Johnson striking with the second new ball to swing the game firmly in Australia's favour.

Harris, however, claimed the key wicket, dismissing Ian Bell for 27 after luring him to prod at a delivery just outside off stump.

Harris, with 2-32 from 20 overs, was marginally Australia's best bowler, though Johnson's late burst again stole some of the limelight.

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