England stand on the brink of cricketing calamity after just two days of their Ashes series with Australia here, local media said Saturday.
England's inept display on the opening two days of the first Test at the Gabba has them battling to avoid a heavy defeat as they go into Saturday's third day needing 350 runs to avoid the follow-on with seven wickets in hand.
The Australian press praised the performance of ageing fast bowler Glenn McGrath to initiate the early batting tremors with two wickets that left England lurching at 53 for three at stumps on Friday.
"England stand on the brink of cricketing calamity. Australia have plenty to smile about," The Sydney Morning Herald said.
"(Captain) Ricky Ponting and his players have won the opening two rounds of this contest decisively.
"His batsmen have put runs on the board, a task carried out at a pace that gives their colleagues time to take 20 wickets. His bowlers have taken early wickets, thereby reducing their opponents to a wretched state."
The Australian newspaper pointed to the contributions of two of Australia's senior players, McGrath and opening batsman Justin Langer, for putting the Australians in such a commanding position after just two days' play.
"All the questions about the future of these two 36-year-old champions have come to nothing. Langer smashed a belligerent 82 on the opening day and now McGrath, playing his first Test in 11 months, has brought England to its knees," the national daily said.
"Just what grief Shane Warne (at 37), the oldest player on the ground, can cause the downcast tourists will unfold in the coming days."
The Age in Melbourne reflected on the Ashes pendulum and momentum swinging back Australia's way after England won the series last year.
"Last year, all that could go wrong did for Australia, which is not to deny England its deserts. This time, the misfortunes have all been England's."
"Three matchwinners last series -- Michael Vaughan, Marcus Trescothick and Simon Jones -- are not here and a fourth, (fast bowler) Steve Harmison, has become a liability.
"Not for the first time, a touring team is finding Australia to be a damnable wilderness. Australia, by contrast, has had a Midas touch in all its endeavours."
The Australian newspaper said the disintegration of Harmison as a bowling force was presenting huge problems for the under-fire tourists.
"England's pace attack continued its beleaguered and confused approach, with (captain) Andrew Flintoff again showing a lack of faith in his underdone and out of sorts spearhead, Steve Harmison," the newspaper said.
"The pair may be great mates but if there was ever a point where relations were to become strained this was it."