Woakes takes 6 for England against Cricket Australia XI

TOWNSVILLE: Chris Woakes produced a sharp dress rehearsal for England's first Ashes cricket test against Australia when he took 6-54 Wednesday on the opening day of the four-day match against a Cricket Australia XI.

Woakes eased concerns about the form of England's injury-hit pace attack when his 18 over effort helped reduce the home side to 249-9 at stumps.

The England attack has been depleted by the loss of Steve Finn, who has returned home with a knee injury, and Jake Ball, who is in doubt for the first test in Brisbane next week because of an ankle injury.

Woakes ran through the home team's top order Wednesday claiming 4-8 in his opening spells. Chris Overton, a contender to make his test debut in Ball's absence, took 2-32 and Stuart Broad took a late wicket to finish with 1-33.

England is looking to Woakes to help fill the shoes of key allrounder Ben Stokes, who will miss the first test as he remains under police investigation after a recent nightclub brawl.

"With Ben being away all of us have got to step up," Woakes said. "Hopefully I can do that.

"Hopefully I can score runs and take wickets. That's my plan. I'll be trying my best to do that."

The 28-year-old Woakes has played only one test this year but has performed consistently in the past, averaging 32.14 with the ball while Stokes averages 35.72.

Off-spinner Moeen Ali returned to the England side after missing recent matches with a side strain, and bowled 16 overs without taking a wicket.

Wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow gave the visitors a scare when he left the field early in the day with an injured finger after awkwardly fielding a ball from Woakes.

Bairstow returned after receiving medical attention and an England team spokesman said he had suffered a bruised middle finger.