They began well in their quest, snaring Mark Taylor, the Australian captain, in the fourth over of the morning. Dean Headley, the hero of Melbourne managed to square the left-hander up, Graeme Hick completing the dismissal with a tumbling catch at second slip.
It was Headley, too, who nine overs later, also got rid of his opening partner, Michael Slater, when the batsman gloved an attempted hook shot to Warren Hegg behind the stumps. England were more than happy to see the back of him.
The visitors might have done better, with Justin Langer getting a reprieve after snicking a no-ball from Alex Tudor. Langer was also close to being run out, but the third umpire gave him the benefit of the line and the doubt.
Fortunately for Tudor, the indisgression did not prove expensive and not long after Langer cut the youngster to cover, where Mark Ramprakash took a simple catch.
Alec Stewart lost his fifth toss of the series, a record for visiting captains in Australia. He also lost his opening partner, Michael Atherton, who woke to what was later described as "increased spinal stiffness". The Lancashire opener's big-match temperament will be missed.
England, mindful that this game requires boldness rather than caution, brought in Tudor for Alan Mullally. They also stuck with one spinner, Peter Such, a contrast to Australia, who have gone in with three, including Shane Warne.
After the New Year's Eve fireworks, the hottest ticket in town is the cricket and 15,000 people queued outside the Sydney Cricket Ground hoping that news of the sell-out was untrue.
Australia won toss
AUSTRALIA - First innings
*M A Taylor b Headley c Hick 2
M J Slater b Headley c Hegg 18
J L Langer b Tudor c Ramprakash 26
M E Waugh not out 5
S R Waugh not out 9
Extras (lb 1 nb6) 7
Total: (for 3, 16.5 overs) 67
Fall: 1-4 (Taylor); 2-52 (Slater); 3-52 (Langer).
To Bat: D S Lehmann, I A Healy, S K Warne, S C G MacGill, C R Miller, G D McGrath.
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