Hughes puts Australia on the front foot

Australia

Australia hit back with a day of dominance in the third Test against Sri Lanka to close in on a series win, with Phillip Hughes' unbeaten century guiding them back into the lead.

Australia hit back with a day of dominance in the third Test against Sri Lanka to close in on a series win, with Phillip Hughes' unbeaten century guiding them back into the lead in Colombo.

Sri Lanka had enjoyed the better of the exchanges over the weekend and claimed a 157-run lead on first innings on the back of Angelo Mathews' first Test century, but Hughes' aggression saw Australia close day four on 209 for three.

With a 1-0 advantage in the series, a lead of 52 runs in the third Test and seven wickets in hand, the tourists look set to claim a series win in Michael Clarke's first series in charge.

Sri Lanka's desperation by the end of the day was summed up in a review on the final delivery, with Tony Hill's decision to not give Hughes out caught behind upheld, thus leaving Sri Lanka without any referrals for the rest of the innings.

Hughes finished unbeaten on 122, his strike rate of 60 having been slimmed by a quiet final hour after he'd reached his third Test hundred in 141 balls, while Clarke was eight not out at the close.

The SSC pitch continued to be slow and flat, with a rough patch outside the right-hander's leg stump at one end the only help for the bowlers.

Rangana Herath used it to grab two of his three wickets, with Ricky Ponting (28) the only batsmen to fall in the final session when the left-arm spinner got one to spit from the rough patch and catch Ponting's glove on the way to slip.

Hughes had been unbeaten on 78 from just 108 deliveries when the tea break arrived, having helped Australia add 111 runs in the second session to take their total to 127 for two.

Hughes put on a positive opening partnership with Shane Watson that was worth 62, and then added 60 with Shaun Marsh as the runs flowed freely off his bat.

The left-hander had failed to pass fifty in his previous four innings in the series, but played with a straighter bat in defence yet never shied away from attacking when opportunities arose.

Watson was also his usual positive self, but was stopped on 21 when Rangana Herath trapped him lbw. Although it was originally given not out by umpire Hill, Sri Lanka reviewed the decision and Hawkeye confirmed that Watson had been hit in line by a delivery that would have gone on to peg back off stump.

Marsh was shaky early on but had a lot of pressure taken off by Hughes' belligerence. Hughes went to fifty in just 67 balls, allowing Marsh to take a more defensive approach as Herath spun the ball out of the rough.

However Marsh departed just before tea in bizarre fashion, given out caught bat and pad at short leg off Herath despite the fact that he clearly never hit it.

Strangely Marsh walked straight off without questioning Hill, whose decision would certainly have been overturned on review.

Earlier Angelo Mathews recorded his maiden Test century to help Sri Lanka to a first-innings lead, but the first session still belonged to Australia.

Mathews finished unbeaten on 105 as Sri Lanka were bowled out for 473, before the Australian openers took their side to 16 without loss at lunch.

Peter Siddle ripped out the wickets of Shaminda Eranga and Rangana Herath early on after Sri Lanka had resumed on 428 for six, and Mathews ran out his next partner, Chanaka Welegedera, as the nervous nineties took their toll on a batsman who had twice fallen just short of a Test century.

However Mathews eventually reached three figures with a drive over extra cover, sparking wild celebrations which rather reflected the situation. The 24-year-old had agonised over his last 20 runs since the final session on day three, and could be criticised for putting a personal milestone ahead of the team goal.

That meant that Sri Lanka added just 45 runs in 19 overs before Mitchell Johnson brought the innings to an end by knocking back Suranga Lakmal's off stump, leaving the hosts to reflect on a rather unproductive session as they run out of time to force a series-levelling victory.

The lack of impetus was seized on by Australia, who regained the initiative through a Hughes century which not only served a personal goal but also had the team cause in mind.

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