Rain halts Australia's surge in second Test

Michael Hussey takes a run during his knock of 142 off 244 balls AFP

By Kuldip Lal

Pallekele: Sep 10, 2011

Michael Hussey hit his 14th Test century and debutant Shaun Marsh his maiden ton before rain halted Australia’s progress in the second Test against Sri Lanka on Saturday.

The two left-handers put on 258 for the fourth wicket as the tourists moved to 411-7 in their first innings by stumps on the third day, a lead of 237 runs with three wickets in hand.

Marsh made 141 and Hussey scored 142, his second big knock in the series after a match-winning 95 in the first Test in Galle last week.

Just 40.3 overs were bowled in the day as heavy rain washed out play soon after lunch at the Pallekele International Stadium.

With more rain forecast over the remaining two days, Australian captain Michael Clarke may be forced to make an early declaration to bid for a series-clinching victory.

Hussey and Marsh, who resumed at 264-3, stayed together till 10 minutes before lunch when Hussey holed out to the cover fence against part-time spinner Thilan Samaraweera.

Their partnership was the highest ever against Sri Lanka for the fourth wicket, surpassing the 256 by Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly for India in Mumbai in 1997.

The pair had joined forces on Friday morning when Sri Lanka grabbed three quick wickets to reduce Australia to 116-3 in reply to their own 174.

Both Marsh and Hussey reached their respective centuries in the same over from off-spinner Suraj Randiv 45 minutes after the start of play.

Hussey, who was on 76 overnight to Marsh’s 87, outscored his partner and achieved his third hundred against Sri Lanka with an on-drive for two runs.

Marsh moved to 98 by driving seamer Chanaka Welegedara through the covers for a four and then reached 100 by flicking Randiv to mid-wicket for two.

Former Australian opener Geoff Marsh applauded warmly from the stands as his 28-year-old son jumped in the air with a raised bat to celebrate the landmark.

The younger Marsh had come into the Test side in place of former captain Ricky Ponting, who had to return home after Galle for the birth of his second child.

The century will help the left-hander secure his place in the team even when Ponting returns for the third and final Test in Colombo from September 16.

Australia, who were 378-4 at lunch, lost three wickets in the space of one run after resumption before the weather intervened.

Marsh added 11 to his lunch score of 130 when he pulled seamer Suranga Lakmal to Kumar Sangakkara on the mid-wicket fence while attempting his 19th boundary.

Sangakkara, who had also caught Hussey, picked up his third catch when Brad Haddin lofted Randiv to mid-on.

Randiv then bowled Mitchell Johnson first ball, but Ryan Harris prevented a hat-trick.

When play was called off, Usman Khawaja was unbeaten on 13 and Harris was on nine.

As Australia piled up the runs, Sri Lanka rued the absence of their two first-choice spinners, Ajantha Mendis and Rangana Herath, who were forced to miss the match with injuries.

Australia lead 1-0 in the series, their first in Sri Lanka since 2004, after winning the first Test by 125 runs. (AFP)

Brief Scores: Sri Lanka 174 all out (Angelo Mathews 58, Kumar Sangakkara 48; Angelo Mathews 58; Ryan Harris 3 for 38) trail Australia 411 for 7 (Michael Hussey 142, Shaun Marsh 141, Shane Watson 36, Philip Hughes 36; Suraj Randiv 3 for 103, Suranga Lakmal 2 for 102) by 237 runs.

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