'Driest first-day pitch I've played on' - Hussey
Michael Hussey, the Australia batsman, believes the tourists' 273 places them in a stronger position than would appear in the first Test against Sri Lanka on what he declared the "driest" first-day pitch he had encountered.
Without Hussey's steely 95, Australia would have been in a far poorer state, and as it is, are in a difficult position on a turning pitch when their spin resources consist of the debutant Nathan Lyon and the part-time fare of the captain Michael Clarke.
As he sought a positive spin on a day that resembled numerous others during last summer's Ashes series in terms of results if not conditions and opposition, Hussey said the success of Sri Lanka's seamers gave the visitors hope of a strong second day.
"It is certainly the driest first day pitch I've played on in Test match cricket," Hussey said. "Their quicks got wickets as well. They obviously got four of the wickets, got a bit of reverse swing, so we've got to use that to our advantage tomorrow hopefully. It certainly took a lot of turn on the first day but I thought in general, the guys played the spin pretty well.
"It was quite a difficult pitch to start on really. It was really slow so it was hard to find your timing initially. I guess my message was just to try and play as straight as possible and just try to hang in there for as long as you can because it does get easier the longer you go.
"Having said that, it's sort of an apprehensive feeling as well because there might be one ball that explodes and takes the glove or takes your edge and you're gone anyway. I think the message [to the other batsmen] is to try to play their game, be positive and just try to take time to get used to the pace of the pitch because it was a little difficult to time the ball early."
While he complimented the bowling of Rangana Herath and Suraj Randiv, Hussey admitted he was surprised that Ajantha Mendis had not been chosen to test the Australians with his unusual variations.
"I wasn't sure at all what the make-up of their team would be. Maybe a little surprised that Mendis didn't play," Hussey said. "But having said that I thought their two spinners bowled really well. [They] obviously had a fair bit in their favour.
"I think that's one of the strengths of our batting order really. All of them play spin in their own way so that makes it hard for their spinners as well. I know all the guys have good experience and they will stick to their plan against their spinners no matter what the conditions."
Hussey was the last man out, lbw as he sought to farm the strike, and might have been able to reach his century if not for a misguided decision not to refer the lbw verdict against Ryan Harris. Both Hussey and Harris felt the umpire's initial call was right, but replays showed that while Harris had not offered a shot, the ball would have missed off stump.
"Yeah I think we mucked up there. We should have used the referral, we both probably thought it was out," Hussey said. "I asked Ryan and said 'what did you think' and he said he felt pretty much out, from my angle - which wasn't the best angle - it looked out but in hindsight we definitely made a mistake there. We should have referred it, especially with only a couple of wickets to go. We made a blue."
Much will rest on Lyon's ability to hold his own against Sri Lanka's batsmen on day two, and Hussey also said Clarke would have a part to play in setting the right fields for his inexperienced offspinner.
"It's just important for him to take away all the euphoria of his first Test," Hussey said. "That's going to be hard to do, with the excitement of it all, and just really focus on his job of bowling well. In the first-class match in Colombo, 'Pup' set some really good fields for him and I think that's going to be important tomorrow. A lot of in-out fields.
"The way they play, they will look to maybe try and dominate him and try to put some pressure on him. If we can have some protection in certain areas and keep our catchers around the bat then I think he's got a great chance. There's a lot in his favour but he's going to have to be patient, he's going to have to be disciplined and he's going to have to bowl a lot of overs. Big job for him tomorrow."
Herath, who was the pick of Sri Lanka's spinners, said Hussey had batted with great care for the scenario in front of him on a pitch he reckoned was not too far from the norm in Galle. Herath dismissed Shane Watson, Clarke and Ricky Ponting, but could not find a way past Hussey.
"I think he batted according to the situation, against myself and Suraj [Randiv]," Herath said. "The other three guys batted well too, but that time I have bowled well. That is a difference, the whole innings Michael Hussey batted really well."
As for Sri Lanka's goals on day two, Herath suggested a tally of 300 for 5 would be satisfactory as the hosts seek to bat Australia out of the match.
"I think, if we can bat through the first session without giving them a wicket, that's the best we can do against Australia," he said. "Definitely [we are happy], but if we can end up tomorrow at 300 for 5 [we will be in a good position] and I'm sure the guys can do that."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo