Updated: 12/26/2013 10:07 | By Agence France-Presse

Aussies get Cook wicket but England take honours

Australia grabbed the wicket of skipper Alastair Cook as their only reward after sending beleaguered England into bat on the opening day of the fourth Ashes Test on Thursday.

Aussies get Cook wicket but England take honours

England's Alastair Cook leaves the ground after being caught in the slips by Australia's Michael Clarke on the first day of the fourth Ashes Test in Melbourne on December 26, 2013

Australia captain Michael Clarke, with the Ashes already tucked away with an unassailable 3-0 series lead, won the toss and attempted to put the troubled tourists under immediate pressure under overcast skies at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

England got to first hour drinks without losing a wicket but lost Cook three overs later when he nibbled at Peter Siddle and was caught by Clarke at second slip for 27.

The tourists, trying to avoid a 5-0 series whitewash, went to lunch at 71 for one with Michael Carberry on 26 and Joe Root not out 11.

England generally batted with purpose but Carberry was dropped in the seventh over when he edged Ryan Harris to the slips cordon.

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

Nearing lunch Carberry also survived a review for leg before wicket on 26 off Harris.

Cook was in nice touch early and took eight runs off Mitchell Johnson's opening over and then hit him to the cover boundary in his next over but was disappointed to get out for his fifth cheap score of the series.

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.

Prior, who has played 75 Tests, has not missed a Test since being recalled for England in 2009 but paid for a poor series, averaging just 17.83 and twice missing stumpings of David Warner in Perth when the Australia opener made a second innings century.

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

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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