David Warner
David Warner

Australia have built a 260-run lead at lunch on day four of the first Test and look set to accelerate towards an afternoon declaration against Sri Lanka in Hobart.

At the break, the home side had reached 2-146, Phil Hughes (nine) and Shane Watson (two) unbeaten after Sri Lanka struck back with a brace of wickets late in the session.

David Warner (68) and Ed Cowan (56) had motored to their second century stand, adding 132 for the first wicket before Warner top-edged a cut from Rangana Herath (1-34) to Prasanna Jayawardene behind the stumps.

It took a seaming delivery from Chanaka Welegedara (1-44) to breach Cowan's stout forward press, the ball ducking back off a length and brushing the 30-year-old's pad before crashing into his off stump and reducing Australia to 2-140.

Having reached his second half-century for the match, Warner immediately looked to increase his scoring rate and targeted Herath in particular, launching over long-on for the first six of his innings and backing up with a switch-hit boundary from the left-arm spinner's next over.

However Warner was out soon after.

Herath hadn't entered the fray until the 32nd over of the Australian innings with Mahela Jayawardene rotating his quicks through short spells during the early stages.

But the veteran tweaker looked to be troubling both batsmen almost as soon as he came into the attack.

Sri Lankan captain Jayawardene had appeared content to employ a defensive strategy from the outset, again placing a deep point to dry up easy boundaries to the Australians and delay Michael Clarke's likely declaration for as long as possible.

But even with the field set deep, both openers were able to find the fence during the opening overs, a pair of Cowan cut shots particularly impressive on the slowing Blundstone Arena deck.

Such was the Sri Lankan mindset, they were down to one slip after nine overs in the morning session, another sign of Jayawardene's cautious approach but also a reflection of the passive fourth day pitch.

The visiting pace battery was unable to extract anything like the degree of movement off the seam that had troubled both Australian openers on Sunday night and, once settled, had little trouble on a pitch still rewarding batsmen once set.

Having survived an lbw appeal during a frantic close to Sunday's play a decision Sri Lanka failed to refer despite replays suggesting Cowan would have been given out had they chosen to the watchful left-hander continued to ride his luck when beaten by a peach from Angelo Mathews in the day's 16th over.

Prasanna Jayawardene gloved the ball cleanly and immediately flicked it at the stumps, perhaps indicating he believed the ball had passed Cowan's blade without contact.

But his captain opted to review perhaps conscious of the previous night's missed opportunity only for inconclusive replays to keep Cowan safe at the crease.

Given Australia are yet to win a Test this summer, Clarke will be hoping for quick runs after lunch in order to make a declaration with enough time left for his depleted attack to dismiss the talented Sri Lankans in their second innings.

The home side will be without the services of Ben Hilfenhaus after the paceman injured himself early on the third day.


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