Colombo: Shaun Marsh and Mike Hussey maintained their good form by hitting half-centuries to help Australia reach 235-5 on Friday at stumps on the opening day of the third and final Test against Sri Lanka.
Marsh top scored with 81 following his 141 in his debut innings in the second Test. Hussey followed up his 142 in the last Test with an unbeaten 63. He hit a six and six boundaries from 107 balls.
Sri Lankan seamers Suranga Lakmal and debutant Shaminda Eranga picked up two wickets each.
Spinner Rangana Herath bowled Marsh after he had faced 207 balls, hit seven boundaries and also helped salvage Australia's innings by sharing 79 runs with former captain Ricky Ponting, who made 48 after the hosts lost two wickets for 22 runs.
Ponting faced 91 balls and hit six elegant boundaries before he chased a wider delivery from Lakmal to wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene. Eranga, who earlier snared Australian opener Shane Watson in the first delivery of his Test career, had captain Michael Clarke (6) caught behind to finish with 2-52. Lakmal had the best figures of 2-39.
Eranga is the 18th Test bowler to strike with his first ball and the second Sri Lankan to do so.
Sri Lanka captain Tillakaratne Dilshan won the toss in the morning and sent Australia in to bat, having named Eranga among three seamers, hoping to make good use of the early movement in the pitch.
Lakmal struck in the second over of the match, bowling Phil Hughes with Australia yet to score.
Trailing the three-match series 1-0 and having to win this match to avoid a series defeat, Sri Lanka dropped seasoned batsman Thilan Samaraweera and included Lahiru Thirimanne for only his second Test.
Suraj Randiv and Seekkuge Prasanna — who made his debut in the second Test — were left out, with left-arm spinner Herath the lone spinner in an uncharacteristic Sri Lanka attack. Herath returned after missing the second Test due to a finger injury.
Ponting returned to the side after missing the second Test for the birth of his second child. Top-order batsman Usman Khawaja was dropped.
Seamer Ryan Harris, the most successful bowler of the series with 11 wickets, missed out due to an injury and Peter Siddle took his place.
The match is former Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara's 100th Test match.