Zimbabwe-born Gary Ballance has edged closer to a possible Test debut for England in Adelaide next week after scoring a patient 55 against the Chairman’s XI.
England declared on 7-212 late on Friday’s day one of the two-day game at Traeger Park in Alice Springs.
The home side reached 0-16 from 10 overs at stumps with Steve Cazzulino five and Marcus Harris 10.
Sent in to bat by Chairman’s XI captain Michael Beer, the tourists had slumped to 6-149 before Jonny Bairstow (31 not out) and Graeme Swann (29) added 49 for the seventh wicket.
With temperatures in the mid-30s on Friday and a top of 39 forecast for Saturday, the Red Centre has turned out a hot welcome for the tourists.
A crowd of 1524 appreciative fans braved the heat for the opening day.
England were made to scrap hard with the bat despite the home side having no current Sheffield Shield players in their 12-man lineup.
Michael Carberry (six), Joe Root (22) and Matt Prior (19) all fell before lunch.
Kiwi-born allrounder Ben Stokes batted at No.5 and was caught at short leg for 28, failing in his bid to post a big score to push for a Test debut.
The 24-year-old Yorkshireman Ballance, a stocky left-hander who represented Zimbabwe at Under-19 World Cup level aged 16, was run out at 5-146 after a mix-up with Ian Bell.
Bell was out three runs later for 13 as 21-year-old Western Australia rookie seamer Simon Mackin (2-32) claimed his second scalp. NSW Second XI wicketeeper/batsman Jake Doran, 16, picked up two catches behind the stumps.
It was a timely knock from Ballance, as England need to adjust their batting lineup for Adelaide following the withdrawal of No.3 Jonathan Trott from the rest of the Ashes series with a stress-related illness.