Sydney: Australian blew the chance to take an iron grip on the third Test against Sri Lanka on Friday and instead scrabbled to a 48-run first innings lead after reaching 342 for six at the close of the second day's play on Friday.
Phil Hughes and David Warner got the hosts off at a canter on a glorious morning with half centuries in a partnership of 130 as Australia looked to build a big total in their bid to sweep the series 3-0.
Two run outs, including one for Mike Hussey in his final Test, and a couple of soft dismissals, however, left Sri Lanka bowling at Matthew Wade, who had survived a good few scares to reach 47, and Peter Siddle (16) when stumps were drawn.
Australia captain Michael Clarke also made 50 but will probably remember the day more for having given the call for the risky single that saw Hussey dismissed for 28 by Dimuth Karunaratne's direct hit. “Today we could look back and feel we could have been in a better position, it would have been nice to have a couple of wickets less,” said Hughes, who hit a stylish 87.
“But that’s the position we're in now, 40-odd run lead and we're well balanced in this game.”
Sri Lanka, who made 294 in their first innings, showed considerably more fight than they had in the innings and 201 run defeat in Melbourne last week and they were only a couple of dropped catches from being right back in the match.
“A number of young players have come in and shown that they've got some guts and the desire to play at this level,” coach Graham Ford said. “On the other hand... we might have been in a better position. Although we’re still in the game, we could have been in quite a powerful position.”
Hughes and Warner, who hit a pugnacious 85, had plundered runs in the opening session against a patched-up pace attack in almost perfect batting conditions. The only wicket to fall before lunch was that of opener Ed Cowan, who gave a precursor of what was to come when he ran himself out for four.
Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene finally introduced spinner Rangana Herath after the break and the most prolific wicket-taker in Test cricket last year almost had an immediate impact with a strong lbw appeal against Warner.
It was turned down and a TV appeal showed the ball was turning too much to hit the leg stump but half an hour later the opener was heading back to the dressing room.