Sri Lanka, Australia share the spoils

Australia

Sri Lanka methodically justified captain Tillakaratne Dilshan's decision to bowl first before Shaun Marsh and Michael Hussey held up their charge as Australia reached 235 for five at stumps on day one to the third and final Test.

Sri Lanka methodically justified captain Tillakaratne Dilshan's decision to bowl first before Shaun Marsh and Michael Hussey held up their charge as Australia reached 235 for five at stumps on day one of the third and final Test in Colombo on Friday.

The day had looked to belong to the hosts, who had the Aussies under the cosh at 120 for four. Half-tons from Marsh and Hussey, though, ensured that the spoils were shared on a day that was twice interrupted by rain and ultimately ended by bad light.

The left-handed Hussey, man of the match in the first two Tests, once again held the middle order together in moving to 63 not out. Brad Haddin, meanwhile, scraped together a semblance of form with an attacking 21 not out after Marsh's hopes of a second ton on the trot were stifled by an obscure shot.

The two-Test rookie, having looked the part throughout, played down the wrong line to a pretty standard delivery from spinner Rangana Herath. For his misjudgment, the batsman had his off-stump pegged back and made his way back to the pavilion for 81. Hussey and Haddin were left to dig deep in carrying their side to the close without further loss.

Earlier, with conditions at the Sinhalese Sports Club proving sweet for batting, Ricky Ponting and Marsh were determined to cash in on their hard graft through the morning session.

The losses of Phil Hughes and Shane Watson shaken off and swing and seam proving hard to come by for the home attack, the veteran and his sidekick tucked into a 79-run stand and would have gone all the way to 100 and beyond had a rare piece of indiscipline not got the better of the former captain.

Shackled by Suranga Lakmal's line and length, the right-hander eventually took the bait on the drive at a slightly wider delivery, with wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene doing the rest on the back of a straightforward edge.

Eight overs later Michael Clarke suffered the same fate. Shaminda Eranga coughed up something wide for the visiting captain to push at. A full-blooded drive would have been the better option, with Jayawardene again at hand for a tame edge.

Heading into the match with an additional seamer and one less spinner, the hosts took advantage of the nominal movement on offer early on.

Hughes was lazy in his approach to a delivery that jagged back into him, chopping onto his stumps for a second-ball duck, while Watson gifted Eranga a wicket with his very first ball in Test cricket by heaving a wide loosener straight to Dilshan at backward point.

Ponting rightly survived a review when on six, with Chanaka Welegedera's appeal for an edge to Jayawardene turned down twice. The right-hander, on the pull, had succeeded only in brushing his hip to the ball rather than his bat.

The hosts made a string of changes to their starting XI, with Thilan Samaraweera, Seekkuge Prasanna and Suraj Randiv dropped. Lahiru Thirimanne was drafted in as an opener, Herath returned from injury and all-rounder Eranga was afforded a debut. Dilshan will bat at five in the order.

The visitors, meanwhile, brought Peter Siddle in as a replacement for the injured Ryan Harris and Usman Khawaja made way for the return of Ponting. Marsh landed the coveted number-three berth ahead of the veteran Ponting.

The Aussies enjoy a one-nil lead in the three-match affair after a 125-run win in the series opener in Galle. The second Test ended in a rain-affected draw.

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