Sri Lanka v Australia, 2nd Test, Pallekele, 3rd day

Marsh and Hussey star before rain sets in

The Report by Brydon Coverdale

September 10, 2011

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Australia 411 for 7 (Hussey 142, Marsh 141, Randiv 3-103) lead Sri Lanka 174 by 237 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Michael Hussey and Shaun Marsh had a 258-run partnership, Sri Lanka v Australia, 2nd Test, Pallekele, 3rd day, September 10, 2011
Michael Hussey and Shaun Marsh put on 258 for the fourth wicket © Associated Press

There was plenty for Australia to celebrate on the third day in Pallekele - Shaun Marsh's hundred on debut, and Michael Hussey's 14th Test century - but Sri Lanka ended the day with some hope of salvaging a draw after rain washed out almost the entire afternoon's play. Only 40.3 overs were bowled, mostly before lunch, and Australia extended their lead to 237, but with further showers expected over the next two days, Michael Clarke's men were wondering if they would have time to knock Sri Lanka over again and take a 2-0 series lead.

An overnight declaration loomed as a possibility as the Australians would not wish to waste their big advantage, set up during a terrific 258-run stand between Marsh and Hussey, the second highest for Australia in Tests against Sri Lanka, and the highest for any country for the fourth wicket against Sri Lanka. And while Hussey's composure was expected, the way Marsh played in his first innings made him look like a Test natural.

He became the 19th Australian to score a century on his Test debut, and the only one of his countrymen to achieve the feat batting at No.3 was the great Bill Ponsford. Marsh started the day on 87 and quickly moved off the unlucky number with a glide past gully for four.

Negotiating the nineties proved slightly tougher; Hussey was on 76 when Marsh moved out of the eighties, yet he reached triple-figures before his younger partner. Both men got there in the same over, Hussey pushing a two past midwicket off Suraj Randiv, before Marsh swept two from the final ball of the over.

It was a wonderful moment for the Marsh family; his father Geoff jumped to his feet in the stands, riding the two runs home like he was cheering on a race-horse, and Shaun raised his bat and high-fived Hussey when he caught his breath. Both batsmen soon lifted their tempo and Marsh brought out some of his limited-overs strokes, including a brutal drive back over the bowler's head for four off Chanaka Welegedara.

Hussey eventually fell for 142 when he lofted Thilan Samaraweera - who hadn't taken a Test wicket since 2004 - to deep cover. It was the third hundred in seven Tests for Hussey, who since the start of the Ashes he has averaged 68.50, and it continued a remarkable Test for him after he took a stunning catch hurling himself to his left at gully on the first day, and bowled a wicket maiden to get rid of Kumar Sangakkara.

Hussey was the only wicket to fall before lunch, but in the eight overs delivered after the break Australia suffered a mini-collapse. On 141, Marsh pulled Suranga Lakmal to deep midwicket, and in the next over the out-of-form Brad Haddin lofted a catch tamely to mid-on off the bowling of Randiv for 1.

Randiv was on a hat-trick after he bowled Mitchell Johnson next ball; Johnson expected the ball to turn away from him and shouldered arms, only to see the topspinner go straight on and rattle his stumps. Ryan Harris negotiated the hat-trick ball - barely - and was 9 not out when the rain came, while Usman Khawaja was on 13.

But such a collapse meant little, next to Marsh's milestone and Australia's weather worries. There will be some nervous Australians looking out the window at daybreak on Sunday.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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