Australia are surging towards a 1-0 lead in the Ashes series after centurions David Warner and Michael Clarke batted England into submission in the first Test.
England were left holding on for dear life with two days still to play, after Australia’s pace battery reduced them to 2-24 at stumps, leaving them 537 runs short of victory with eight wickets remaining.
Only rain or a record-breaking England revival can stop Australia from ending a winless run of nine Tests to take an assured step towards wresting back the urn.
Warner (124) and Clarke (113) smashed emphatic hundreds, before first-innings heroes Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson put the match virtually beyond reach as Australia declared with a 560-run lead at 7-401.
Given 15 overs to strike before stumps, fast bowling spearheads Ryan Harris (1-7) and Mitchell Johnson (1-7) maintained the rage to remove Michael Carberry (0) and Jonathan Trott (9).
Carberry played on off Harris through the legs, while Trott was once again brought undone by the short ball – a gleeful Johnson waving him off the field.
Speaking after the day’s play, Warner said he could feel the fear in the English batsmen.
“The bowlers are bowling fast at the moment,” Warner said.
“England are on the back foot it does look like and they’ve got scared eyes at the moment.”
Only a muffed run-out chance by George Bailey where he prematurely took off a bail kept Alastair Cook (11no) at the crease and prevented chaos setting in.
Kevin Pietersen (3no) will need to produce an innings for the ages to prevent his 100th Test from ending in defeat.
England’s highest successful fourth-innings run chase at the Gabba is 3-170, and 370 is the most they’ve scored in a losing pursuit.
The highest fourth-innings total in cricket history was England’s 5-654 in a draw against South Africa in 1939 – and since then no team has posted more than 451 batting last.
England are on the back foot it does look like and they’ve got scared eyes at the moment.
Warner’s Ashes turnaround was flooded with irony, as he brought up a fourth Test ton by punching Joe Root through the covers.
Meanwhile, Clarke answered questions over his technique to the short-pitched bowling of Stuart Broad in brilliant fashion, to register the 25th century of his Test career.
Warner and Clarke’s third-wicket partnership was worth 158 runs from 175 balls, and turned the knife on England after Australia’s bowlers had set the match up on day two by bowling the old enemy out for 136.
Terrible shot-selection from Chris Rogers and Shane Watson had left Australia at 2-75 after they’d resumed at 0-65 with a lead of 224.
However, the concerns didn’t last long as Warner and Clarke took England to pieces.
Haddin continued a memorable 50th Test when he scored a half century in both innings for the first time in his career to go with passing 200 dismissals as a ‘keeper.
Debutant Bailey chipped in with a handy 34 featuring two towering sixes, before Johnson (39no) opened the shoulders to continue his dream comeback.
England’s bowlers were dispatched to every corner of the Gabba, with Graeme Swann (2-135 from 27) copping the most punishment.
Warner said a first-Test win would be a big psychological boost for the Australians.
“Obviously to get a 1-0 lead in a five-Test series is going to be massive for us,” he said.
“Hopefully we can take eight wickets tomorrow and go on from there.
“The boys are on a high at the moment but we’ve got to get the job done.”