Centuries from Michael Hussey and Shaun Marsh saw Australia to an impressive score of 411 for seven and a lead of 237 at stumps on a rain-affected day three to the second Test.
Picking up where they left off at 264 for three overnight, the duo continued to tuck in against a flat Sri Lankan attack across progressively easier conditions at the Pallekele International Stadium.
The marginal swing on offer on day one and the patches of seam across day two made way for a rather flat track on Saturday and the left-handers cashed in.
While Marsh endured a tentative streak in the nervous 90s, the veteran Hussey was having none of it and sailed to the 14th ton of his Test career. The debutant, shrugging of his over-caution, took his cue in the same over to move to his maiden century.
The recipient of a record 29 Test centuries, Mahela Jayawardene, who had joked about Marsh falling before getting to three figures late on Friday, was quick to congratulate the batsman on his milestone in a humbling gesture.
For his feat, the 28-year-old joined an illustrious list of Australians to land a century in their first Test knock. Marcus North was the last man to do it two years ago, while Michael Clarke, Mark Waugh, Greg Blewett and others have achieved as much in the past. With his partnership alongside the greenhorn at 258, Hussey attempted a strike over the top against part-time spinner Thilan Samaraweera.
The stalwart didn’t quite get to the pitch of the ball enough and succeeded only in holing out to Kumar Sangakkara at deep cover for 142. Other than that stroke, Hussey’s vigil was near flawless as the 36-year-old romped to the top of the series’ run-scoring charts.
Joined at the crease by a nervy Usman Khawaja, Marsh moved to 130 not out at lunch and after the break had his father, Geoff Marsh, back on his feet in appreciation as his son pipped his father’s Test best. The right-hander reached 138 against England at Trent Bridge in 1989, but the left-hander went three runs better for his 141.
That’s where it ended for Marsh, who returned to the pavilion in the wake of a job well done after providing more than ample substance as Ricky Ponting’s replacement. He had hoped to flat-bat a lame short ball to the midwicket fence, but instead it travelled straight to square-leg, where Sangakkara was again open to the sitter.
Brad Haddin then continued his wretched run of form in perishing to deep mid-on with a bit of a hack before Mitchell Johnson suffered a similar fate to Tillakartne Dilshan and Shane Watson earlier in the match.
The all-rounder opted to leave his first ball alone, but accounted for spin as the straight one crashed into the stumps. Randiv, for his guile and variation, had two wickets in two ball and almost enjoyed a hat-trick as Ryan Harris tended to his opening delivery in a very shaky fashion.
Khawaja, in danger of falling down the pecking order in the wake of Marsh’s ton and his own struggles, cut loose for a six down the ground and enjoyed handy support from an agricultural Harris, who swung for the fences at every turn.
Rain, however, stopped their blossoming charge dead in its tracks – for the day, at least – as play grinded to a halt at 13:20 local time (07:50 GMT). The showers never relented for the day as proceedings – shy of completion to the middle session and void of a final session entirely – was ultimately called to a premature end.
Sri Lanka were bowled out for a mere 174 in their first innings. The Aussies lead the three-match affair one-nil after a 125-run win in Galle’s series opener. (Cricket365)