Colombo: A Phil Hughes century helped Australia to 209 for three at stumps on day four of the third and final Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo. The tourists currently lead by 52 runs and have seven wickets remaining, but a result seems unlikely given the nature of the batsman-friendly pitch.
Hughes hit 122 from 201 deliveries, belting 16 boundaries and one six in a terrific performance that will silence his critics.
The New South Welshman had been facing pressure to keep his spot in the side after not passing 50 on the tour, but the 22-year-old produced a superb innings when he needed it most.
Australia only lost one wicket in the final session, with former captain Ricky Ponting (28) the man to depart after he was beaten by a delivery from the impressive Rangana Herath (3-54).
Herath's ball leapt up off the surface and surprised Ponting, taking the glove on the way through to Mahela Jayawardene at first slip.
Hughes raced towards his century with a series of brilliant strokes in the second session of the day and he looked at ease at the crease despite the departures of Shane Watson (21) and Shaun Marsh (18).
Watson was only given LBW on a referral, while Marsh should have asked for a review but instead
walked when he was adjudged caught at bat-pad when the ball never touched his bat.
Herath claimed both wickets and he was the only one who could contain the Australians with his economical bowling.
Earlier, Sri Lanka were bowled out for 473 after losing four wickets for 45 runs in the first session.
Angelo Mathews did notch his maiden Test century, but it was a session dominated by the tourists.
Peter Siddle (4-91) bent his back in the early stages and firstly bowled debutant Shaminda Eranga (12) before he trapped Herath (3) LBW.
Mathews made the session memorable for his refusal to take singles at regular intervals and at times it seemed that the vice-captain was more concerned about getting to his century then helping the team.
Mathews, who had been dismissed for 99 and 95 in Test cricket before, was understandably cautious but the farcical running between the wickets, or lack of, resulted in Chanaka Welegedara (1) being run-out before the all-rounder finally brought up his century with a four through the off-side.
Suranga Lakmal (13) hit three late boundaries before he was bowled by Mitchell Johnson, giving the Aussies two-and-a-bit sessions to bat in the hope of setting some form of small target for Sri Lanka to chase on the final day.
Australia 316 and 209 for 3 (Hughes 122*, Herath 3-54)
Sri Lanka 473 (Mathews 105*, Dilshan 83, Sangakkara 79, M Jayawardene 51, Siddle 4-91)
Status Australia lead by 52 runs