Chris Read won the toss and opted to bat first at Trent Bridge but saw his top order fail him as Graham Onions and Ben Stokes took two wickets apiece in a lunch score of 98 for four.
Onions, named in the England Lions side to face New Zealand next month but still an option for the senior team, removed openers Alex Hales (two) and Ed Cowan (40).
Australia opener Cowan hit six fours but could have fallen early had Stokes held a catch off Onions with the new ball.
Stokes removed Michael Lumb for three and then capped a fine session for his side by dismissing another England international, Samit Patel, with the final delivery of the session.
James Taylor was left 26 not out.
In Division Two, promotion favourites Hampshire struggled to 89 for four against Essex at Chelmsford.
Veteran seamer David Masters was the star of the show, taking three for 16 in 10 overs.
His scalps numbered Jimmy Adams (11), Liam Dawson (14) and Australian George Bailey (15). Left-armer Reece Topley added the wicket of opener Michael Carberry, another player in the Lions side to face New Zealand, for five.
From a position of 47 for four, James Vince and Sean Ervine put on an unbeaten 42-run stand before the end of the session.