Australia maintain stranglehold
Michael Hussey shook off his fears over a short Test lead-up to register his sixth Test century and continue an impressive rebuild of Australia's team after the loss of three greats. A torn hamstring suffered in the World Twenty20 limited Hussey's preparation to a first-class game for Western Australia, but he was not hampered by his body or lack of play as he set up a massive total with Michael Clarke.
"I was a little concerned," Hussey said. "I'd done a lot of batting in the nets and had one game against Victoria, but nothing can really prepare you for a Test. I was quite relieved to score a hundred."
Hussey's 245-run partnership with Clarke allowed Ricky Ponting to declare at 4 for 551 and ensured a smooth transition after the side lost Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer after its previous Test in January. Despite the strength of the position, Hussey was cautious about the state of game - "It's just a start" - but was more confident about the prospects of improvement from the regenerating squad.
"You can't replace champions, but we're still trying to raise the bar again and that comes down to the guys working collectively to raise their own games and our team to keep growing," he said. "But it's a lot different not having Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath around."
Hussey has quickly developed into a great international player and his 133 was the spine of the innings. On reaching three figures he waved to his family in the stands, where his daughter Molly, who was born prematurely in May, was attending her first Test. "I don't think she'll know too much about it," he said, "hopefully she slept most of the day."
If she watched she would have seen her father excelling against one of the game's greatest spinners. Hussey's plan against Muttiah Muralitharan was to stay in the crease while Clarke was prepared to use his feet during his unbeaten 145. Clarke was picking the doosra "sometimes" - "I'm definitely not saying yes or I'll get stumped next time" - and felt the duo did a good job against Muralitharan.
"We played him pretty well," he said. "I was looking for the ball to come out of his hand differently and trying to get to him on the full so it didn't get a chance to spin."
A year ago Clarke was feeling his way back into the team and now he is entrenched after three centuries in his past five Tests. "I don't think too much has changed, I still try to be as positive as I can," he said. "My shot selection has probably improved and I've grown up a bit."
Australia's day got better in the final 16 overs after Brett Lee struck twice, although Hussey warned things might not be as easy on day three. "The wicket has flattened out," he said, "and we're going to have to work hard to prise out the Sri Lankans."
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo