Atapattu leads Sri Lanka's reply
Sri Lanka 239 for 2 (Atapattu 109*, Jayawardene 29*) trail Australia 401 (Lehmann 153, Ponting 92, Muralitharan 5-123) by 162 runs
Marvan Atapattu, Sri Lanka's captain-in-waiting, bounced back to form with an unbeaten 109 - his 12th Test hundred - as Australia's bid for a 3-0 clean sweep was delayed on the second day in Colombo. Atapattu added 134 for the first wicket with Sanath Jayasuriya, who continued his electric form from Kandy, and followed up with handy stands with Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene to leave Sri Lanka handily placed at the close on 239 for 2.
At the start of Sri Lanka's innings, all eyes were on Shane Warne, who needed just nine more wickets to overhaul Courtney Walsh's world record of 519. But he was unable to add to his tally as Sri Lanka rallied strongly in reply to Australia's first-innings 401.
The morning session had belonged to Darren Lehmann, who resumed on 104 and dominated from the start, as he and Warne shared a 77-run stand for the seventh wicket. Lehmann eventually ended up with 153, an innings that spanned six hours and 268 balls, and included 14 fours and two sixes.
But Muttiah Muralitharan ended the run-fest with three wickets, as Australia's last four batsmen fell for 25 runs in the final hour before lunch. Muralitharan finished with 5 for 123 from 37.1 overs, the 43rd five-wicket haul of his career, and his fourth of the series. It took his series harvest to 25, and extended his career tally to 510 - one behind Warne.
Jayasuriya and Atapattu then launched Sri Lanka's innings with a mini-tidal wave of runs, which brought life to the small crowd and ended the eerie silence that had enveloped the stadium through the first four sessions. Jayasuriya was in sizzling touch and an adventurous mood, clubbing through the covers and scything through third man. Atapattu, who had had a lean spell during the first two Tests, also played in a positive vein as Sri Lanka sped past 50 in just 45 balls.
Ricky Ponting turned to Warne in 13th over of the innings, a move that slowed the run flood to steady trickle. But Warne was denied an early breakthrough, as Jayasuriya cruised past his fifty off just 59 balls. Sri Lanka sped to a record opening stand against Australia, surpassing the 110 scored by Roshan Mahanama and Chandika Hathurusingha in 1992-93, also at the SSC.
Ponting, however, pulled off a masterstroke moments before tea. His seamers had been battered to all corners, so Lehmann's slow left-arm spin was called into the attack. His first ball was a full toss and was carted disdainfully for four by Jayasuriya. But, next ball, Jayasuriya charged down the pitch and miscued a lofted drive to Jason Gillespie, who made good ground running in from long-on and clung onto a low, sliding catch (134 for 1).
After tea, though, Sri Lanka continued to flow with Kumar Sangakkara playing a punchy hand. The second-wicket pair added 41 in 84 balls before Lehmann struck his second blow, courtesy of a bad decision from umpire Bucknor, who adjudged that Sangakkara had been caught behind when television replays showed that the ball had brushed only pad (175 for 2).
But there were to be no further inroads for Australia as Atapattu coasted to his hundred with some high-elbowed drives and Jayawardene bedded down watchfully for an unbeaten 29. Australia sank back onto the defensive with Brad Williams bowling wide of the stumps to a packed off-side ring. Warne returned for a final burst but was kept at bay to finish wicketless from his 18 overs.
Earlier in the day, Sri Lanka's second new ball had come and gone without a wicket falling. They came close but dropped chances, near-misses and miscues were the order of the first hour, and with every opportunity that fell by the wayside, the body language of Sri Lanka's fielders grew ever more despondent.
Thilan Samaraweera had opened the bowling once again after Nuwan Zoysa had failed a fitness test on his injured groin. He might have also picked up his second wicket, had it not been for another missed chance by Jayawardene in the slips. He had dropped Lehmann on 20 yesterday - a sharp chance - but now completely fudged an even sharper chance when Warne had made 13.
Warne continued to ride his luck. An awkward poke off a short ball from Chaminda Vaas lollypopped over Tillakaratne Dilshan at short leg, and a bat-pad off Muralitharan bounced just short of the same fielder moments later. An edge flew just wide of a solitary slip, before a miscued drive somehow dissected a well-patrolled cover ring.
Lehmann, meanwhile, mixed the occasional leg-side biff with the odd inside-out cover-drive, but a marginal lbw decision sparked Muralitharan into life. Warne had scored 32 from 71 balls, with seven boundaries. He had Jason Gillespie snapped up for a duck at silly point; Michael Kasprowicz was bowled by Jayasuriya for 4 (387 for 9), before Lehmann was the last man out, caught at deep extra cover by Jayasuriya to give Murali his fifth wicket of the innings.