Aussies reach 273 after Hussey rescue act

Australia

Mike Hussey put in a solid knock of 95 but it was Sri Lanka who took the plaudits at stumps on day one of the first Test at the Galle International Stadium on Wednesday.

Mike Hussey put in a solid knock of 95 but it was Sri Lanka who took the plaudits at stumps on day one of the first Test at the Galle International Stadium on Wednesday.

The veteran left-hander's vigil was the lone reason for the Australians to smile amid an otherwise poor batting display as they reached 273 all out at stumps.

All of their top eight batsman made it to double figures, five of them beyond 20, but none other than Hussey kicked onto necessary proportions.

The visitors' choice to bat first was a fair call, but early turn and the odd demon in the pitch soon had openers Shane Watson and Phil Hughes out cheaply.

Hardly tested against the seamers, Watson looked set to pick up on his decent run of form in the preceding one-dayers. Rangana Herath's introduction into the attack for just the seventh over of the day, though, promptly had that aspiration tossed out the window.

The opener pushed forward and away from his body at one that pitched on a penny and ripped away from the right-hander, who managed only to fade an edge to wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene, who did well in whipping his gloves around to fetch his 100th dismissal in Test cricket.

With Watson back in the hut for 22, Ricky Ponting watched from the non-striker's end as Hughes perished for 12 soon after his fellow opener.

Suranga Lakmal (three for 55), certainly a more effective quick than left-armer Chanaka Welegedera for the most part, exacted some startling lift off a standard length to cop the shoulder of Hughes' willow and Tharanga Paranavitana was at hand at first slip for the sitter.

That left the Aussies at 76 for two at lunch, with captain Clarke and his predecessor eager to cash in on their fight through the truncated morning session after overnight rain had delayed the start of play by an hour.

Neither individual could oblige their collective wish, though.

Clarke was removed by a plumb lbw at the hands of Herath (three for 54) for 23. It took a review to send the skipper packing as a quick television replay soon revealed what umpire Richard Kettleborough had inexplicably missed.

Ponting went 12 overs later for 44. Having struck a handsome one-bounce four down the ground two overs prior, he looked for more of the same, succeeding merely in holing out at long-off. Failing to meet the ball at its pitch, the veteran paid the price as Angelo Mathews pocketed the catch.

Usman Khawaja, picked ahead of Shaun Marsh, was iffy at best in only his second Test. The Ashes graduate lasted 58 deliveries for his 21 runs and was ultimately put out of his misery on the stroke of tea. Welegedera, who laboured through a string of ineffective spells earlier, whipped out some rare reverse swing to castle the left-hander.

True to form and the strike farmer that he is, Hussey took Brad Haddin and the lower order under his wing. Wicketkeeper-batsman Haddin, out of sorts in the one-dayers, looked to bang his way back into form but was soon on his way after being outfoxed by Suraj Randiv (two for 76).

Mitchell Johnson (14), Trent Copeland (12) and Nathan Lyon – 25 minutes at the crease for his unbeaten zero – hung around long enough to shepherd Hussey into the 90s. The rest was up to him.

The stalwart left-hander couldn't carry over the last hurdle, however, instead perishing lbw to part-time spinner Tillakaratne Dilshan despite a review from the Australian.

Sri Lanka openers Dilshan and Paranavitana headed out to the middle for one over of reply, but with the light fading fast, they were soon back in the pavilion at the umpire's discretion without a delivery bowled.

The Aussies earlier handed debut caps to seamer Copeland and spinner Lyons, while the hosts surprisingly left Ajantha Mendis out of their starting XI.

<B>Jonhenry Wilson</B>

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