Colombo: The third and final Test between Australia and Sri Lanka in Colombo is evenly poised after day one, with the tourists reaching stumps at 235 for five.
Shaun Marsh continued his excellent form in just his second Test to reach 81, while Mike Hussey was not out on 63 and Brad Haddin unbeaten on 21 when bad light stopped play.
With the start of play delayed by 30 minutes to let the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground dry after overnight rain, Sri Lanka won the toss and sent the Australians in, counting on some extra movement in the humid conditions.
The move paid immediate dividends when Suranga Lakmal (2-39) dimissed Phil Hughes for a duck in the second over.
The Australian opener prodded at a delivery outside off-stump, the ball collecting a thick inside edge before cannoning into the stumps.
Hughes' dismissal brought Marsh to the crease, the Western Australian retaining the No.3 position despite Ponting's return to the squad after missing the second Test for the birth of his second child.
Marsh picked up where he left off from his brilliant 141 in Kandy, with a couple of boundaries moving him swiftly into double figures.
But Sri Lanka struck again to remove Shane Watson (8), with debutant Shaminda Eranga (2-52) dismissing the big-hitting Aussie with his first ball in Test cricket.
The 25-year-old lured Watson with a wider delivery outside off-stump, and the Australian smashed it straight to Sri Lankan skipper Tillakaratne Dilshan at point to bring Ricky Ponting to the wicket.
The Sri Lankans thought they had the Tasmanian caught behind on six, but umpire Aleem Dar ruled Ponting not out and his judgement was proven spot on when a video review revealed the ball had flicked the pad and not the bat.
A 79-run stand for the third wicket between Marsh and Ponting steadied the ship in the middle session but Sri Lanka hit back, dismissing Ponting and Australian captain Michael Clarke (6) to head into tea with the upper hand.
Ponting looked on course for a half-century, but on 48 the Australian played a rash drive to a wider delivery from Lakmal and edged it to Prasanna Jayawardene in the slips.
Clarke's dismissal was almost a carbon copy of Ponting's, when Eranga tempted him into a loose drive and he too was caught behind by Prasanna.
Marsh fell in the final session when he played down the wrong line against off-spinner Rangana Herath (1-60) and was bowled.
His dismissal brought Haddin to the crease and he and Hussey had just begun to deal with the new ball when the umpires offered the batsmen the light, which they gratefully accepted.
Australia 235 for 5 (Marsh 81, Hussey 63*)