Skipper Steve Smith posted an unbeaten 64 to rescue Australia from a precarious start and guide the hosts to 165/4 at stumps on day two of the Ashes, replying to England's 302. Australian critics questioned the quality of the England squad ahead of the first Test, and veteran Australian players David Warner and Nathan Lyon attracted headlines for some hostile commentary about the series.
So far, England has been the more settled of the teams, sticking to batting plans to keep the big Australian pacemen bowling plenty of overs - Ashes rookies James Vince (83), Mark Stoneman (53) and Dawid Malan (56) all posting half centuries - and executing well-devised strategies in the field to pick off the home team's top order.
An 89-run partnership between Smith, who scored his 22nd Test half-century, and recalled No. 6 Shaun Marsh, who was unbeaten on 44, salvaged the innings after Australia slumped to 76/4 at the start of Friday's evening session. The rain-affected first day yielded four wickets but the second, in sunny sub-tropical conditions, produced 10 wickets after England resumed at 196/4.
After adding 50 without loss to the overnight total, Malan's dismissal ended his 83-run fifth-wicket stand with Moeen Ali (38) and triggered a collapse as England lost three wickets for four runs. In all, the last six English wickets fell for 56 runs and the tourists were out by lunch following a late flurry from Stuart Broad (20).
But any confidence the Australians gained in the first session eroded after the interval when opener Cameron Bancroft (5) was caught behind off Broad in the fourth over in his first Ashes innings.
Ali struck in his second over to trap Usman Khawaja (11) lbw and Jake Ball made a key breakthrough with his first Ashes wicket, getting combative opener Warner (26) out paddling a catch to mid-wicket as Australia slipped to 59/3 in the 20th over.
Australia's position deteriorated to 76/4 when Peter Handscomb (14) was given out lbw on review to Jimmy Anderson, who struck the Australian No. 5 on the back pad directly in front of middle and leg stumps.
Smith and Marsh's stand — the first significant partnership of the innings — dug the home team out of serious trouble at a ground where Australia hasn't lost a Test match since 1988, and where England hasn't recorded a victory in 31 years.
It was a letdown for the almost 35,000-strong crowd at the Gabba after Australia got back into the game in the extended morning session.
Starc triggered England's lower-order slide and Lyon picked up two wickets within seven deliveries.
Malan was out not long after raising his third test half-century with a well-timed reverse sweep to Lyon, caught at backward square leg when he attempted to pull a short ball from Starc.
Lyon had Ali adjudged lbw in the next over and, six balls later, bowled Chris Woakes (0) as England slipped from 246/4 to 250/7.
Starc finished with 3-77 from 28 overs, fellow Pat Cummins had 3/85 in his first test on Australian soil and Lyon returned 2/78 from 36 overs