Dawid Malan (56) contributed the tourists’ third half-century of the match but England lost their final six wickets for the loss of just 56 runs as they were bowled out for 302.
England piled the pressure on with four early wickets but an unbeaten 64 by Australia captain Smith and a patient 44 not out from Shaun Marsh provided some resistance as the Baggy Greens finished the second day on 165 for four.
Ball, who dismissed David Warner for his first Ashes wicket, told BT Sport: “The wicket isn’t too bowler-friendly so you have to stick in there and wait for the mistake. We didn’t quite expect the pitch that we have got here but I think we have adapted well with bat and ball.
“It’s pretty good, we just had a chat and we know if we get two quick wickets in the morning then you have (Pat) Cummins and (Mitchell) Starc coming in, so two quick wickets in the morning and we are right in this game.
“I think we have done excellently well today. We have executed our plans and we are due a bit of luck so in the morning hopefully we will get that.
“The atmosphere is amazing. I got a bit of stick down by the pool but that just adds to the whole occasion and that’s what you expect. It has been a really good start, a good couple of days’ cricket and I’m looking forward to the next three.”
Australia bowler Starc, who finished with figures of three for 77, praised the unbroken 89-run partnership between Smith and Marsh, alongside the bowling attack.
He said: “I guess we had to sort of adapt to the wicket - it’s not a general Gabba wicket that we see, it usually gets a bit harder on day two but it’s like a normal day one wicket.
“But we had to find a way to generate a few wickets and I think six for about 115 is a great way to finish with the ball and then a great partnership between Steve and Shaun is a great way to finish too.
“They have done fantastic. It is not the ideal start with the bat to be four for not a lot, but they dug in, faced a lot of balls and ground it out and found a way to build a nice partnership, got us to stumps and something to build on tomorrow now.”