Johnson and friends make it Australia's day
Australia 3 for 150 (Warner 62) trail Sri Lanka 156 (Sangakkara 58, Johnson 4-63) by 6 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Kumar Sangakkara became the second Sri Lankan to reach the 10,000-run milestone in Tests but there was little else for Sri Lanka to celebrate on their first Boxing Day at the MCG since 1995. A day that began with Mahela Jayawardene winning the toss and choosing to bat ended with Australia at the crease and having already nearly passed Sri Lanka's 156, an awfully disappointing total brought about by some disappointingly awful shot selections from the Sri Lankan batsmen.
Mitchell Johnson was awkward to face, collecting three wickets and breaking the thumb of Prasanna Jayawardene; Jackson Bird was impressively consistent in his first day of Test cricket and picked up two wickets; and Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon also collected two each. Australia's selectors must have breathed a sigh of relief at the effectiveness of the attack, after their decision to rest the Hobart match-winner Mitchell Starc due to concerns over his workload.
Not that Australia did everything right. After a strong opening partnership of 95 between David Warner and Ed Cowan, both openers and Phillip Hughes fell within the space of seven overs late in the day, leaving Sri Lanka a sliver of hope if their bowlers can do some damage on the second morning. At stumps, Australia were 3 for 150, trailing by six runs, and they had their in-form captain Michael Clarke at the crease on 20, alongside the vice-captain Shane Watson on 13.
Clarke had been passed fit in the morning, ending speculation that the hamstring injury he picked up in Hobart would allow Watson to become Australia's 44th Test captain, and he showed no real signs of discomfort while batting late in the day. Both men had been given lives though: Clarke put down by Tillakaratne Dilshan at silly mid-on when he chipped Rangana Herath to the leg side and Watson by the acting wicketkeeper Kumara Sangakkara, who dived to his right and grassed an edge off Chanaka Welegedara.
Sangakkara was wearing the gloves due to a hairline fracture Prasanna Jayawardene suffered while batting, and although he dropped that chance he was part of one dismissal, whipping the bails off at the striker's end to run Phillip Hughes out for 10. Ed Cowan had worked the ball to the leg side and called Hughes through for a single, but the non-striker's hesitation led to his demise; Dilshan misfielded and Hughes could comfortably have made the run had he set off immediately.
In the next over, Cowan departed with no further addition to the score, caught at second slip for 36 when he slashed at Dhammika Prasad, who had been brought in to replace Nuwan Kulasekara. Cowan and Warner had given Australia a strong start until Warner was caught at deep midwicket for 62 off the bowling of Angelo Mathews. Warner was trying to maintain the brisk pace he had set early, having raced to his half-century from 34 balls.
Warner had shown the Sri Lankans that the MCG pitch was good for batting with some crisp strokeplay, finding boundaries all around the wicket. Especially disdainful was his slap for six over long-on off the bowling of Welegedara, a shot more out of Twenty20 than Test cricket. It was appreciated by the 67,138 spectators in the crowd, an impressive attendance that outstripped the Boxing Day numbers for the 2008 and 2009 Tests against South Africa and Pakistan.
There was a healthy sprinkling of Sri Lankan fans among the crowd and they were disappointed with the way their side batted, apart from the half-century scored by Sangakkara. His 58 was the only innings of note and while several of his team-mates made starts none showed the patience required against good bowling, many throwing their wickets away with loose shots.
Sri Lanka went to lunch at 3 for 79 and lost their final seven wickets in the second session for the addition of only 77 runs as Johnson rattled several players with his short deliveries and Siddle and Bird were rewarded for their accuracy. The final two wickets went to the offspinner Nathan Lyon, who had Herath caught off a top-edged sweep at fine leg for 14 and two balls later had Welegedara taken at long-on.
It was a rapid end for the Sri Lankans, who were relying heavily on Sangakkara to steer them to a competitive score. However, when he top-edged a hook off Johnson and was brilliantly taken by Matthew Wade, who sprinted two-thirds of the way to the boundary and dived to reach the dropping ball, Sri Lanka were in serious bother at 8 for 147.
That was Johnson's 200th Test wicket and he joined elite company as the seventh Australian to the milestone of 200 Test wickets and 1000 runs. He had provided some awkward moments for the Sri Lankans during a spell full of quick bouncers and at one stage was on a hat-trick after he had Prasanna Jayawardene (24) caught at third slip fending a snorter of a short ball and Prasad caught behind off another bouncer next ball.
The hat-trick delivery was set up to be a bouncer, with a leg gully, short leg, four slips and a gully, but Johnson instead went for a good-length ball on off, which Herath defended. In any case, the bowler overstepped and it was called a no-ball. But Johnson had certainly provided some spark for Australia after a brief rally from Sangakkara and Prasanna Jayawardene following the dismissal of Mathews.
Mathews flashed wildly at a Siddle ball outside off and his edge was snapped up by Hussey at second slip. It was a catch that required outstanding reflexes, but it was also one that arrived only because of an atrocious shot from Mathews. Thilan Samaraweera was equally guilty when he went for a hook off Bird straight after lunch and lobbed a top-edged catch to midwicket for 10. It was uncharacteristic of Samaraweera but characteristic of Sri Lanka's day.
Before lunch, Bird struck in his second over with the new ball when he angled a ball across the left-hander Dimuth Karunaratne (5) and nipped it away off the seam, and the thick edge was snapped up by the wicketkeeper Wade. Bird was very impressive in his initial Test spells, hitting a nagging line and length and offering few scoring opportunities for the batsmen.
More runs came off Johnson, but he also picked up an important wicket when Dilshan stood flat-footed and tried to heave a delivery from just outside off stump through the leg side. Dilshan, on 11 at the time, succeeded only in inside-edging the ball back onto his stumps and it was a particularly ugly dismissal for a man who was fresh from a century in the first Test in Hobart.
Siddle also broke through when Mahela Jayawardene, who had been tied down, drove at a ball that moved away slightly and edged behind for 3 from 26 balls. The only highlight for Sri Lanka was when Sangakkara brought up his 10,000th run in the final over before lunch with a square drive for four off Johnson and received a hug from Samaraweera and a round of applause from the Australian players.
But Sangakkara couldn't last in this innings, and neither could Sri Lanka, and by stumps they faced an enormous task to keep themselves in the Test.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here