Sri Lanka are fighting back with the bat at the SCG after an unbeaten Matthew Wade century threatened to take the third Test out of the tourists’ reach.
Sri Lanka were 1-130 from 31 overs at tea, having almost eroded Australia’s first innings lead after Michael Clarke declared half an hour before lunch at 9-432.
The tourists trail by just eight runs and the final session on Saturday shapes as the most telling of the match.
If Sri Lanka can continue to pile on the runs and give spinner Rangana Herath something decent to bowl at on a crusty fourth innings pitch, the tourists remain as a genuine hope to win their first ever Test in Australia.
Trailing by 138 runs on the first innings, opener Dimuth Karunaratne has played superbly to reach his best-ever Test score of 83 not out. He had failed to score better than 30 previously this series.
Karunaratne is accompanied at the crease by inspirational skipper Mahela Jayawardene (38no) who also made 72 in the first innings in what is his last match as captain.
The pair brought up their century partnership from just 133 balls as Sri Lanka batted with purpose and a belief that was missing last week when they were destroyed at the MCG.
Mitchell Johnson claimed the only Sri Lankan wicket to fall so far, with Phil Hughes getting his fingers under a dipping edge to third slip which saw Tillakaratne Dilshan on his way.
The pressure is on Australian spinner Nathan Lyon to produce results after a lean run of late.
Lyon had Karunaratne dropped behind the wicket in the 22nd over, when Wade failed to get a clean grab at the ball and Clarke couldn’t react to the deflection at first slip.
Earlier with the bat, Wade looked certain to run out of partners, with No.11 Jackson Bird coming to the crease with the diminutive left-hander still requiring 30 runs to bring up the milestone.
But a week after Bird left Mitchell Johnson stranded in the 90s in the second Test, the fast bowler played a fine support role as Wade hit the accelerator on his way to 102no.
Wade brought up three figures with a blistering cut-shot that split two fielders and left them standing in wet cement.
Playing in his ninth Test, Wade ran towards the Members Pavillion and leapt to the air as a full SCG crowd, draped in pink for Jane McGrath Day showed their appreciation.
Sri Lanka’s great hope Herath finished with four for 95 to provide an ominous warning about what he might be capable of if the game is on the line.