Australia edged ahead of Sri Lanka on day two of the third and final Test, reaching 342-6 at stumps yesterday for a 48-run lead over the tourists.
Australia's batsmen were confident of big scores on a friendly wicket after dismissing Sri Lanka for 294 at the end of the opening day but their momentum was checked by the visiting spinners as the pitch cracked in the warm Sydney sunshine.
"The pitch is doing a bit already and it's only day two," said Phil Hughes, who top-scored with 87. "It did take a bit of turn and it was quite difficult to drive. I never felt 100 per cent in, even though I got a few runs."
Hughes and David Warner (85) both fell just short of centuries, while Michael Clarke made 50 and Mike Hussey was run out for 25 in what could have been his final Test innings.
Rangana Herath and Tillakaratne Dilshan kept up the pressure but a lack of world-class pace options means Sri Lanka still face a struggle to avoid a series whitewash.
Australia had looked comfortable even after the early run out of Ed Cowan for just four; the opener dawdling for a first run and hesitating for a second as he was caught out of his ground at the non-striker's end.
Warner got things under way with a first-ball boundary and repeatedly found the rope with a series of punchy cover drives to race his way to 31 runs from 21 balls, putting him in line for a knock to rival his 69-ball ton against India last year.
At the other end, Hughes cut his way to a half century at a more sedate pace and Sri Lanka looked to be in trouble, especially with captain Mahele Jayawardene unwilling to give Herath a bowl before lunch.
"I had a little chat with Mahele and it was a bit odd but he really felt the offspin would cause more problems for the left-hander at the crease," Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford said. "We were close to going for the double spin option."
When Herath made his bow, 127-1 became 195-3.
Warner fell short of his fourth Test ton when he sliced an attempted slog off Dilshan to Dhammika Prasad, who gathered the high ball to end the opener's 84-ball knock. And Hughes tried another cut only to edge Herath to wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal.