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Even top order has Australians on top

On target: Shane Watson celebrates taking the wicket of Sri Lanka's Mahela Jayawardene.

On target: Shane Watson celebrates taking the wicket of Sri Lanka's Mahela Jayawardene. Photo: Getty Images

AUSTRALIA'S most even Test batting performance in almost three years has put it in a dominant position in its series-opening Test against Sri Lanka.

Of Australia's top seven only Ed Cowan (four) and Shane Watson (30) failed to reach 50, a feat further justifying captain Michael Clarke's decision to bat first at Bellerive Oval.

Until Saturday, Australia had not had five batsmen scoring at least a half-century in the same innings since March 2010, away to New Zealand, a spread that delighted coach Mickey Arthur.

Hot form ... Michael Hussey reaches after scoring his century, his 19th in Test cricket. Click for more photos

Australia v Sri Lanka, first Test, day two

Sri Lanka collapsed to 4-87 with their two superstar batsmen already in the sheds after Australia dominated day two of the first Test in Hobart. Photo: Getty Images

''You're always going to lose one or two early, as we did with Eddie [Cowan], but the key to that was the guys coming in have managed to stick together and we've been able to build partnerships,'' Arthur told ABC Radio. ''I think we've shown a lot of patience on a wicket that is tougher to bat on than it looks.''

The discipline referred to by Arthur was evident in all but one of the half-centuries - David Warner's was the exception - being achieved with a strike-rate well under 50. On this latest occasion all five almost ended the innings without a century, only for Mike Hussey to reach that milestone in a fortunate fashion to extend his remarkable record against Sri Lanka.

The third-over departure of Clarke on day two did little to hinder Australia's fortunes as Hussey (115 not out) and wicketkeeper Matthew Wade (68 not out) shared a partnership of 146. The fast pace of their partnership negated the loss of more than two hours to rain and allowed Clarke to make an aggressive declaration at 5-450.

In response, Australia's bowlers pulled their weight by removing Sri Lanka's big-two, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, for only 16 runs between them, courtesy of Watson and Peter Siddle respectively. The last over of the day also brought the departure of veteran Thilan Samaraweera, caught behind by Wade after underestimating the bounce against off-spinner Nathan Lyon when attempting to cut.

The visitors will start day three at 4-87 with a deficit of 363. Tillakaratne Dilshan's aggression has so far paid off - his 50 not out featured eight boundaries - but he may need to temper that aggression on day three to prolong Sri Lanka's innings.

Hussey was almost denied a century when, on 96, he directed a pull shot into the hands of Angelo Mathews at deep mid-wicket. He was saved because the Sri Lankan vice-captain spilled the catch and allowed the ball to reach the rope, giving the left-hander a century he evidently - based on his pained reaction as the ball travelled straight to Mathews - thought he was going to miss out on.

The innings took the in-form veteran's record against Sri Lanka, mid-way through his sixth Test against it, to 877 runs at an average of 125.29. It also meant he had scored a century in all but one of those matches, in Galle last year where he made 95.

While Hussey was the standout batsman, Wade also buttressed his position as Australia's first-choice wicketkeeper with his second half-century in as many Tests.

The start of day two was delayed by 50 minutes due to persistent morning rain. Clarke faced another nine deliveries, edging Sri Lanka's standout seamer, Shaminda Eranga, low to Kumar Sangakkara at first slip to depart for 76. It's only the second time in the past 15 months that he reached a half-century and has not gone on to a century.

Hussey's half-century contained only two boundaries, with the veteran content to rotate strike with nudges between third man and cover. Of that 50, 29 were singles.

Australia's subdued scoring rate improved when Sri Lanka introduced its sole day-one wicket-taker, Chanaka Welegedara. The left-armer started with a no-ball and was similarly undisciplined at the start of his second over, delivering a juicy short-pitched delivery that Hussey nonchalantly pulled to the mid-wicket boundary.

Welegedara said after day one that if Sri Lanka broke the Clarke-Hussey partnership early on day two it could dismiss Australia for under 400. It managed the former but was no closer to the latter as Wade proved himself an able partner for Hussey and showed he was able to bat well to entrench Australia's lead, not just when his team was in crisis.

The second session resumed 80 minutes' late due to rain. Australia's batsman returned with a conspicuously aggressive mindset. Having scored at only 3.19 runs per over to that stage, Australia scored 86 runs in the next 17 overs. The scoring rate spike, to 5.06 runs per over, made it possible for Clarke to declare before tea, despite the loss of 130 minutes due to rain at that stage.

Australia (1st Innings - overnight 4-299)
D WARNER run out (Mathews) 57
E COWAN c Eranga b Welegedara 4
P HUGHES b Welegedara 86
S WATSON c M Jayawardene b Welegedara 30
M CLARKE c Sangakkara b Eranga 74
M HUSSEY not out 115
M WADE not out 68
Sundries (1b, 3lb, 1w, 11nb) 16
Total (5 wkts - decl) 450
Fall of wickets: 18 (Cowan), 97 (Warner), 183 (Watson), 198 (Hughes), 304 (Clarke)
Bowling: N Kulasekara 32-2-80-0 (1w 5nb), C Welegedara 26-1-130-3 (4nb), S Eranga 25-5-90-1 (2nb), A Mathews 15-3-41-0, T Dilshan 7-0-30-0, R Herath 26-4-75-0

Sri Lanka (1st Innings)
D KARUNARATNE c Wade b Hilfenhaus 14
T DILSHAN not out 50
K SANGAKKARA c Hussey b Siddle 4
M JAYAWARDENE lbw b Watson 12
T SAMARAWEERA c Wade b Lyon 7
Sundries 0
Total (4 wkts - close) 87
Fall of wickets: 25 (Karunaratne), 42 (Sangakkara), 70 (M Jayawardene), 87 (Samaraweera). Bowling: M Starc 7-1-30-0, B Hilfenhaus 9-3-18-1, N Lyon 2.1-2-0-1, P Siddle 6-1-23-1, S Watson 5-1-16-1

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