Shaun Marsh hit a gutsy 81 to steer Australia out of trouble at the start of the third and final cricket Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo on Friday. Sri Lankan captain Tillakaratne Dilshan's decision to send Australia in to bat on a moisture-laden wicket paid off as the tourists slumped to 22-2 in the ninth over.
Marsh, who made 141 on debut in the previous Test in Pallekele, led the revival to help Australia reach 235-5 by stumps on the opening day at the Sinhalese Sports Club. The left-hander put on 79 for the third wicket with Ricky Ponting (48) and 70 for the fifth with Mike Hussey (63 not out) to upstage a superb debut by Sri Lankan seamer Shaminda Eranga.
Eranga grabbed a wicket with his first delivery in Test cricket - just as Australian spinner Nathan Lyon had done in the opening Test of the series - and ended the day with 2-52. The 28-year-old Marsh missed his second consecutive century when he was bowled by left-arm spinner Rangana Herath in the final session of play.
Brad Haddin returned unbeaten on 21, having put on 45 runs so far for the sixth wicket with the ever-reliable Hussey. Eranga, 25, one of the three changes in the Sri Lankan side, struck as soon as he replaced Chanaka Welegedara for the eighth over of the innings.
Shane Watson, who made eight, chased a ball outside the off-stump and drove straight to Dilshan at point. Watson's unexpected dismissal came after his opening partner, Phil Hughes, had fallen for a second-ball duck.
Brief scores: Australia 235 for 5 (Marsh 81, Hussey 63no, Lakmal 2/39, Eranga 2/52)