Shane Watson earned Ashes redemption with a highest-test score of 176 as Australia took a major grip of the fifth test against England after day one at the Oval.

Watson scored his first test century for three years and 25 matches to guide Australia to 307 for 4 at the close with Steve Smith unbeaten on 66 alongside night-watchman Peter Siddle (18 not out).

England, who took the uncharacteristic decision to field five bowlers with debuts handed to Chris Woakes and Simon Kerrigan, toiled for much of the day and will rue dropping Watson on 104 with Australia three wickets down after James Anderson had bowled Michael Clarke.

With the weather set-fair for much of the Test match, Australia have built the foundations to set a substantial first innings score on a pitch which is expected to disintegrate during the second half of the contest.

A factor that forced captain Cook into naming five bowlers at the toss with debuts handed to Warwickshire's Woakes and Lancashire spinner Kerrigan with Jonny Bairstow and the injured Tim Bresnan missing out.

The day had begun with news of Australia coach Darren Lehmann's scathing comments regarding Stuart Broad who admitted to edging the ball during the first Test at Trent Bridge earlier this week.

Broad, who took 11 for 117 at Chester-le-street, was labelled a cheat by Lehmann to stoke the fire ahead of the final match of the series.

While England had the luxury of making two changes as they sought to beat Australia 4-0 in an Ashes series for the first time, Australia were forced into more alterations as Mitchell Starc returned and all-rounder James Faulkner was handed his debut.

Michael Clarke won the important toss and put Australia in but David Warner (6) survived just eleven balls as he edged Anderson behind.

At the other end Watson was tearing into both Woakes and Kerrigan, whose respective debuts were working as a baptism of fire, the latter going for 28 in his first two overs.

Chris Rogers (23) and Clarke (7) went in quick succession to Graeme Swann and Anderson respectively before Watson, who had opened as well as batted at four and six in this series, secured his third career hundred in impressive style despite being earlier struck on the jaw by a Broad bouncer.

Cook could have snaffled him when on 104 as Anderson was denied a third wicket and England were punished as he and Smith put on 145 for the fourth wicket before Watson holed out to Kevin Pietersen on the fine-leg boundary for 176.

Smith and Siddle took Australia past 300 before the close to emphatically hand the spoils to the tourists who are looking to lay down a marker ahead of the series on home turf this winter.