Smith and Marnus put Aussies in control
Australia enjoyed a right-handed rescue with Steve Smith smack bang in the middle again after a windy, rainy day at Old Trafford which began with another worrying David Warner failure.
The embattled Aussie opener was out for a second ball duck, on just the fourth ball of the game, as England seamer Stuart Broad made the left-hander look like a deer in the headlights again.
It was the fifth time in seven innings Broad has dismissed Warner, and he became only the fourth opener in Ashes history to register at least six single figure dismissals in a series.
Warner has been first man out in seven of eight Australian innings in the series and faces a significant mental hurdle to overcome in the second innings.
Stream over 50 sports Live & On-Demand with KAYO SPORTS on your TV, computer, mobile or tablet. Just $25/month, no lock-in contract. Get your 14-day free trial and start streaming instantly >
His opening partner Marcus Harris was also out for 13 before Smith and Marnus Labuschagne upset the England bowlers by standing on the other side of the bat.
The pair put on 116 runs, with Labuschagne registering his fourth straight half-century for the series, and Smith his eighth Ashes 50 in a row to put Australia in some sort of position of control.
Australia was 3-170, and Smith not out 60 with Travis Head 18 when the day was done early after only 44 overs as wind and rain lashed the Manchester ground, causing havoc with bails falling off and trash blowing across the wicket.
It created tension as batsmen pulled away, but the final result was a good one for Australia.
"It was frustrating for everyone," said Labuschagne, who was bowled for an impressive 67 batting at number three.
"They got frustrated because we had to pull away when they were running in. Then the bails, when they put them on, you could see the stumps shake
"I've never played a game with no bails.
"But it was important for us to dig and get a big first innings score. I think it's been a pretty good day for us."
At one stage Smith sent a beach ball to the boundary after it dared cross his path, as everyone quickly muttered that the master batsman was indeed seeing everything like one.
Smith had been booed when he came to the crease by a crowd on its feet in expectation of the resumption of his battle with England speed demon Jofra Archer, the man who knocked the Aussie out of the third Test.
They were on the edge of their seats, but quickly returned to the normal position as Archer efforts fell flat.
He tried to up his pace, but having talked a big game before the match, Archer not only didn't trouble Smith, he hardly troubled any of the Australian batsmen.
Archer was down markedly on pace, bowling some deliveries closer to 130kmh than 150kmh, and he never looked like taking a wicket.
Labuschagne looked the perfect number three after replacing the dumped Usman Khawaja, becoming just the third Australian in over 130 years to make four 50s in his first four Ashes innings.
He now has Mike Hussey, the only man to make five from five, in his sights, but will need to wait until the second innings after being bowled by an off-cutter from Craig Overton following a three hour delay in play.
Australia included Mitchell Starc for his first start in the series, choosing him ahead of veteran Peter Siddle.