Pallekele: 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 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.