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Hettige Don Rumesh Lahiru Thirimanne is his name and he may have shown enough at the SCG to impress the most famous Don of them all.

The only thing the young Sri Lankan failed to achieve was a maiden Test century as he overcame a nerve-racking start to craft the most valuable innings of his short career.

But Thirimanne's heroic 91 could have been over before it started had umpire Aleem Dar's decision to pay a first-ball lbw to Jackson Bird not fallen into the greyest part of the television review twilight zone.

"I thought it was out but Mahela (Jayawardene) said it might have being going leg side, so I asked for a review," Thirimanne said.

Bird was equally adamant that the batsman was not out, though he said he had no option but to appeal.

"I didn't think it was out when he gave it out though I did appeal," Bird said. "I thought it might have been swinging down.

"It is a bit frustrating because you celebrate and then get taken off."

Thirimanne rode his good fortune and Australia's attack to help Sri Lanka post a competitive 294.

He was forced to be patient early, with his first 16 runs taking 59 balls, but once he changed gears in the afternoon the stylish left- hander confirmed why Sri Lanka have such high hopes for him.

The 23-year-old had opened in his first seven Tests, for an average of 19, but had been out of the team for nine months as Dimath Karunaratne was preferred as the opening prospect.

Plucked from Sri Lanka's domestic 50-over competition just five days ago to replace injured champion Kumar Sangakkara, Thirimanne was pushed down to No.4 and revealed such a range of exquisite strokes against the Australian quicks and off-spinner Nathan Lyon that his future may be in the middle order.

He only had one net session before the Test, but had few problems adjusting to the red-ball game on a pitch that mirrored the surfaces on which he had been playing.

Although they were sent in on the best batting surface of the series, Sri Lanka had to first overcome the scars of the second Test demolition at the MCG that left them with broken bones and resolve shattered, and the team needing to be reconstituted.

And the loss of both openers before lunch left them vulnerable to the four-pronged pace attack that proved curiously flat for long spells throughout the day.

Yet Thirimanne proved a highly adequate successor to Jayawardene after the pair's half-century stand ended with the Sri Lankan captain also succumbing with a century in his sights.

Thirimanne drove sweetly through the covers and followed his skipper's example by lofting a Lyon delivery into the Victor Trumper Stand to punish the off-spinner's predictable tempo and lack of variety.

Jayawardene was all class as he produced his first half century away from Sri Lanka in more than three years and 27 innings as he welcomed the imminent loss of the burden of captaincy.

The previous one, against India in Ahmedabad in November 2009, extended to 275 and the elegant right-hander was signalling another substantial feat, carving the quicks for a dozen effortless boundaries on either side of the wicket. Australia had to redouble their efforts to dismiss Jayawardene, but finally used a pincer movement to claim him for 72.

As former Test captain Bill Lawry made a plaintive plea for more aggression from the pacemen, Mitchell Johnson responded with the most vigorous burst of the innings.

Lawry didn't mince his words, asking: "Where's the bodyline, where are the bouncers, where's the fire in the belly?"

Johnson had the answer. He shook up Jayawardene, who was forced into a clumsy retreat from a pull shot, then struck Thirimanne twice with short balls.

Johnson may have expected to continue, but Clarke, who has a deft feel for the nuances and shifting tensions in the field, replaced him with fellow left-armer Mitchell Starc.

There was enough difference in the line and method of attack between the two to test the bats- men, but Jayawardene was found wanting when he chased Starc's first delivery and edged to slip.

The wait to check the no-ball replays sapped Australia's celebrations, but they completed them soon enough. Starc claimed another wicket with the first ball of a new spell when he took the second new ball and produced a peach of a yorker to castle Dinesh Chandimal.

Sri Lanka's tail attempted to blaze, though the flames provided little heat or light, but could add little to the industrious efforts produced earlier in the innings.