Left for dead ... Michael Hussey, batting in his final Test, fell victim to a direct hit from Dimuth Karunaratne during a second day marked by two disastrous run-outs from the hosts. Photo: Brendan Esposito
MICHAEL HUSSEY was denied a fairytale century on Friday, and there is a growing possibility he might not have a chance to lead Australia on one last rendition of the team song after Sri Lanka mounted a spirited fightback in the third Test.
Some 26,420 fans had come to the SCG on the second day eager to see Hussey post his 20th Test century but instead they left the famous ground with the realisation the home team suddenly had a game on their hands.
The Australians, looking to stretch their 48-run first-innings lead past 100, will need a significant advantage if they are to bat Sri Lanka out of the game.
''It is doing a bit already, it's only day two and did take a bit of turn,'' said Phillip Hughes, who made 87 runs to lead the hosts.
''I thought it was quite difficult to drive. I never felt 100 per cent in. Even though I did get a few runs it was quite difficult in periods of my innings.
''I felt you had to play the ball as late as possible on that wicket.''
It has taken until the final Test of the series but the Sri Lankans have finally found the strength and bravery symbolised by the lion on their national flag.
Their revival in Sydney might not be enough to stop the Warne-Muralitharan Trophy from remaining on these shores but it has left the door open for Mahela Jayawardene's team to post a historic maiden Test victory in Australia.
Already, the Sri Lankans, with some help from Australian captain Michael Clarke, have forced a rewriting of the script in Hussey's farewell Test.
Clarke was the hero of last year but he is now cast as the man who shot Bambi, and not just because he called Hussey through on a dicey single that ultimately cost the veteran his wicket.
Not even a prompt reaction to Clarke's call and a desperate dive at the crease were enough to save the captain's loyal lieutenant, who was caught short of his ground at the striker's end by a direct hit from Dimuth Karunaratne at cover.
The 37-year-old might get one more opportunity to bat in the second innings but barring a promotion from No.5 there might not be enough runs to chase for him to bow out with a 20th Test century.
Ever the team man, there was no protesting with Clarke or dagger stares from Hussey as it became apparent on the big screen that he was about to suffer the cruellest of dismissals.
Instead, Hussey accepted his fate with the grace that has made him one of the most popular and respected players in the country.
After offering his disconsolate captain a reassuring pat on the back, Hussey, who scored 25, headed back to the pavilion to a standing ovation, raising his bat and helmet to an appreciative crowd.
The Sri Lankans had earlier also recognised the magnitude of the occasion, forming a guard of honour - the second of the summer - for Hussey as he strode to the wicket.
The goodwill also extended to their bowlers, who for 66 minutes had not come within a bull's roar of threatening Hussey.
The left-hander was yet to dominate the tourists but given his record against the island nation, against whom he averages 107, that could well have been coming.
Clarke's day took another turn for the worse just over half an hour later when he squandered a golden opportunity to start the year the way he signed off last year - with a century.
Until his carefree swipe at Rangana Herath on 50, Clarke's only discomfort at the crease - the inconvenience of a hamstring strain and a heavy conscience after Hussey's run out - had not been caused by Sri Lanka.
Herath, one of the world's premier tweakers, and even part-timer Tillakaratne Dilshan troubled the hosts with their finger spin on the second day, and are set to pose more of a danger on the fourth and fifth days.
''It's day two and already it's turning so days three, four and five it'll be turning a fair bit, I'd say,'' Hughes said.
Sri Lanka's coach Graham Ford agreed batting would be toughest later in the game. ''Having some sort of a decent lead can make it very tough for Australia,'' he said. ''It could be a very exciting finish.''