Steven Finn shifted the dangerous Shane Watson early in Australia's reply to 272 for five in the first NatWest Series match at Lord's.
After Eoin Morgan (89 not out) top-scored in England's workmanlike total, early wickets were likely to be key on a fair pitch.
Finn did not disappoint, seeing off Watson caught-behind via an England review which overturned Aleem Dar's initial not-out verdict. George Bailey was the next to go, bowled by James Anderson, before David Warner's dismissal reduced the visitors to 102 for three.
It was Anderson who claimed the wicket of the powerful left-hander, with Craig Kieswetter taking the catch behind the stumps.
Earlier, England were hampered by initially awkward conditions, under heavy cloud cover, and it was thanks to openers Ian Bell and Alastair Cook and then Jonathan Trott (54) and especially Morgan that they mustered a near-par total.
The latter served his adopted country particularly well with an expertly-paced contribution containing five fours and four sixes from just 63 balls.