sport

Australia on top in Melbourne

A brilliant display of pace bowling allowed Australia to assume control of their second Test with Sri Lanka on its opening day in Melbourne.

Having been asked to bowl first in the traditional Boxing Day encounter, Michael Clarke's men skittled their visitors for just 156 midway through the afternoon session, before closing up just six runs shy of that total for the loss of three wickets.

A reinvigorated Mitchell Johnson was the standout performer in the Baggy Green, with the often-maligned quick taking a four for 63 that was ably supported by two each from Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon and debutant Jackson Bird.

David Warner then smashed a 46-ball 62 to get Australia up and running in their pursuit of a first innings lead, something that now looks a certainty, despite Sri Lanka taking three wickets before the bails were flicked.

Had their own score been a better one that would have been respectable but, with such a failure on the board, they already look up against it, but only have themselves to blame.

The Australia pace attack got a bit of movement out of the pitch during the first session, but Sri Lanka were let down by a series of poor shots and Kumar Sangakkara was the only batsman to look comfortable.

That was until Wade combined with Johnson to pull off a brilliant catch with the veteran on 58.

Sangakkara had not played a false shot all day, but was tempted into hooking a short Johnson delivery that bounced higher than expected and could only collect the top edge.

The ball flew straight over Wade's head, but the wicketkeeper kept his eyes on the ball and sprinted over 30 metres towards the sightscreen, before producing a dive to pull off a tremendous catch that dismissed the man who became the 11th in history to register 10,000 Test runs earlier in his innings.

Sangakkara's patience at the crease and ability to punish anything loose was the only highlight of a poor batting performance from the tourists as questionable shot selection led to many of his team-mates' demise.

Bird (two for 32) had his first Test victim with the 22nd delivery of the morning when Dimuth Karunaratne (five) came forward to a ball on a good length, but was only able to edge one through to Wade behind the stumps.

The usually reliable Tillakaratne Dilshan (11) was guilty of the worst shot of the day as he attempted to hit a booming straight drive off Johnson, only to inside edge it onto his off stump to reduce Sri Lanka to 19 for two.

Siddle (two for 30) made it 37 for three shortly after when Mahela Jayawardene (three) nicked one through to Wade, before Sangakkara combined with Thilan Samaraweera to take the score through to 79 for three at lunch.

Bird, who had bowled intelligently during his first stint in the morning, had his second wicket with the third ball after lunch when Samaraweera (10) lofted a short one and Angelo Matthews (15) came and went moments later as the wickets continued to tumble around Sangakkara.

A Prasanna Jayawardene (24) cameo gave Sri Lanka some hope, but when he got a ripper from Johnson and Dhammika Prasad fell the very next ball for a duck, the tourists were 134 for seven and in all sorts of trouble.

Lyon (two for 23) came in to clean up the tail with ease and Australia - with captain Michael Clarke having passed a fitness test before the start of play - set about making hay.

Warner and Ed Cowan raced out to 95 before the former found the hands of Prasad at mid-wicket off the bowling of Andrews, with Phil Hughes then doing little to enhance his credentials as a number three by getting caught out of his ground by Dilshan when on 10.

Another wicket followed when Cowan nicked Prasad to Mahela Jayawardene at second slip, and Australia looked to be reeling when Shane Watson edged the same man to Prasanna Jayawardene, only to see a one-handed attempt at a catch go to ground.

The reprieve stopped the slide and Watson (13no) and Clarke (20no) saw things through to the finish.