PALLEKELE - Australia took command Wednesday of a low-scoring Test against Sri Lanka, building up an 86-run first innings lead before dismissing opener Kulsan Perera with the last ball of a rain-affected day in Pallekele.

Despite the heroics of Lakshan Sandakan, who took four wickets on debut, the hosts were staring down the barrel at stumps on the second day of the opening Test after rain again forced an early end to proceedings.  Perera fell for just four when he was lbw to paceman Mitchell Starc, leaving Sri Lanka wobbling on six for one -- still 80 runs short of having to make the visitors bat again.

Australia had earlier been bowled out for 203 in reply to Sri Lanka's first innings total of 117, with the rookie Sandakan and the veteran Rangana Herath both taking four wickets apiece. Adam Voges top-scored for the Australians with 47, meaning no player from either side managed to score a half-century in the first innings.

And with the turning pitch showing few signs of respite, the Australians' first innings lead could well prove decisive as they try to cement their position as Test cricket's number one side. The 38-year-old Herath, who has hinted that he may soon retire from Test cricket, was the pick of the bowlers and unlucky not to record another five-wicket haul.

He dismissed both overnight batsmen -- skipper Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja -- in successive overs and had a third wicket in the morning session when wicketkeeper Peter Nevill was caught at mid-on. After lunch wicketkeeper Perera dropped a chance off Josh Hazlewood, denying Herath what would have been his 24th five-wicket haul. Australia scored at less than two runs per over off Herath as his 25 overs went for only 49.

While Herath was providing captain Angelo Mathews with options both for attack and containment, Sandakan ran through the lower order to finish with impressive figures of four for 58. His first wicket was that of the all-rounder Mitchell Marsh who added 60 for the fifth wicket with Voges before being bowled for 31.

"I bowled a googly to the other batsman, Voges, and when he got beaten, I thought that I will do the same thing and Marsh fell into the trap. It was a good feeling," a delighted Sandakan told reporters. He is a guy who can play the anchor role.

 It's a big wicket, dismissing him is special."

Seamer Nuwan Pradeep finished with two wickets, including that of the resolute Voges who was brilliantly caught by Kusal Mendis at gully after facing 115 deliveries and hitting three fours. Voges expressed frustration that the Australians had failed to put together any big partnerships. He said he would have felt more comfortable had they managed to stretch the lead into three figures on a tricky pitch.

"We felt if we had one or two good partnerships... and got a 100-plus run lead and then we're feeling we are driving the game," Voges told reporters. A little bit of missed opportunity there... we know in these conditions you need to get bigger scores and big partnerships."

The match has so far been badly hit by rain, with afternoon downpours in what is Sri Lanka's rainy season forcing the umpires to call a premature end to play at tea on both days. The second Test will be held in Galle from August 4-8 and the third in Colombo from August 13-17.


J Burns b Herath 3
D Warner b Pradeep 0
U Khawaja lbw b Herath 26
S Smith st Chandimal b Herath 30
A Voges c Mendis b Pradeep 47
M Marsh b Sandakan 31
P Nevill c Perera b Herath 2
S O'Keefe c Mendis b Sandakan 23
M Starc c Perera b Sandakan 11
N Lyon lbw b Sandakan 17
J Hazlewood not out 2
EXTRAS: (b 4, lb 7) 10
TOTAL: (all out, 79.2 overs) 203
FOW: 1-3, 2-7, 3-69, 4-70, 5-130, 6-137, 7-160, 8-179, 9-190.
BOWLING: Pradeep 16-6-36-2, Herath 25-8-49-4, Dilruwan Perera 14-1-43-0, Sandakan 21.2-3-58-4, Mathews 3-1-6-0.
K Perera lbw b Starc 4
K Silva not out 2
TOTAL: (1 wicket, 2.2 overs) 6
FOW: 1-6
BOWLING: Starc 1.2-0-3-1, Hazlewood 1-0-3-0
TOSS: Sri Lanka
UMPIRES: Richard Kettleborough, Sundaram Ravi
THIRD UMPIRE: Chris Gaffaney (NZL)