James Vince bats during the first day of the first Ashes Test at the Gabba. Photo: EPA/DARREN ENGLAND

BRISBANE - James Vince and Mark Stoneman scored half-centuries as England blunted Australia's vaunted pace attack on an unresponsive Gabba pitch in the first Ashes Test on Thursday.

The pair had few problems mastering Australia's fast bowling trio as they recovered the tourists' innings after the early loss of senior opener Alastair Cook.

But nearing the tea interval, Stoneman was bowled between his bat and pad by Pat Cummins for 53 in a long-awaited breakthrough for Australia.

At tea, Vince, playing in his first Ashes Test, was unbeaten on 72 off 157 balls with skipper Joe Root not out one in England's 128 for two.

Vince reached his half-century off 106 balls with a square drive off Josh Hazlewood in the 38th over, and Stoneman brought up his fifth consecutive half-century on tour off 150 balls in the 51st over.

It was Hampshire right-hander Vince's highest Test score, eclipsing his previous best of 42 twice against Pakistan at Lord's and Birmingham last year.

Vince gave a big chance off spinner Nathan Lyon on 68 nearing tea, but the deflection bounced away off the top of the gloves of recalled wicketkeeper Tim Paine. 

The pair put on a 125-run stand for the second wicket as the Australian bowling attack struggled on a slow-paced Gabba pitch.

It was a spirited recovery after the early wicket of Cook in the third over of the Test match.

The former England captain only lasted 10 balls before he fell to pace spearhead Mitchell Starc to get the Australians a crucial early wicket.

Cook edged Starc to Peter Handscomb at first slip for just two. It continued an uncertain start to the Ashes tour for Cook, who has just one half-century in five innings so far.

It was also a big psychological wicket for the Australians, after Cook amassed 766 runs at 127.66 in England's 3-1 series victory in Australia in 2010-2011.

Stoneman continued his outstanding form on tour following his century and three half-centuries in the four innings of the warm-up games.

Lyon, who taunted the tourists by saying Australia aimed to "end careers" in the Ashes series, got some good turn off the Gabba pitch.

Opener David Warner (neck) and lower order batsman Shaun Marsh (back) were both passed fit to play after injury concerns.

Australia have a formidable record at Brisbane's intimidating 'Gabbatoir', where they have not lost a Test match since 1988.

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