Australia are on top after taking three England wickets Getty Images

Australia took a firm grip of the first test on the opening morning of the Ashes series after taking three England first innings wickets in Cardiff.

Adam Lyth (6), captain Alastair Cook (20) and Ian Bell (1) were all dismissed in the first two hours of play as the tourists dominated the early exchanges.

Gary Ballance (28) and Joe Root (33) put on 45 for the fourth wicket, with England moving to 88 for 3 at lunch, but the hosts will be under no illusions that Australia have taken the initiative.

It took less than two overs for Australia take make the early breakthrough as Lyth edged Josh Hazlewood to David Warner at point.

Cook, who had won the toss before putting England in, showed plenty of attacking intent but two balls after drinks his over ambition was punished as he edged Nathan Lyon to Brad Haddin.

Seven balls later, England were 43 for three as Bell's insipid form continued as Mitchell Starc trapped the Warwickshire batman lbw.

It could have been much worse for the hosts had Haddin clung on to Root's edge from his second ball, and the Yorkshire man took full advantage of his reprieve with a flurry of boundaries, with Starc and Hazlewood's wayward accuracy punished.

The brief shower across the Swalec Stadium ensured bowling became increasingly problematic, allowing Root to pile on the runs to give England a glimmer of encouragement amid a one-sided morning.