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Hughes returns, helps Australia dominate

14 December 2012 08:14

Recalled Australian batsman Phil Hughes has helped his team to a strong position at stumps on day one of the first Test against Sri Lanka.

Hughes wasn't able to cap off his return to the Test side with a century on Friday, but his 86-run knock at Blundstone Arena in Hobart was a driving force behind Australia reaching 4-299 by the end of the day.

The hosts were able to pile on the runs despite the best efforts of a disciplined Sri Lankan outfit that was sent in to bowl first after Australian captain Michael Clarke won the toss on an overcast morning.

The Australian batsmen were made to work for their runs given Mahela Jayawardene's defensive field settings and the visitors' tight line and superb ground fielding, but with six wickets in the shed still look capable of posting a decisive first-innings score when play resumes on Saturday.

Sri Lanka desperately need to break the unbeaten century stand between Clarke (70 not out) and Michael Hussey (37 not out) if they're to limit the Australians to a moderate first-innings total.

Called into the side following Ricky Ponting's retirement from Test cricket, Hughes survived a real scare before tea when he nicked a flashing cut shot behind and was only saved by a huge no-ball from left-arm paceman Chanaka Welegedara (3-99).

Welegedara responded by having Shane Watson (30) caught spectacularly by a flailing Jayawardene at second slip and eventually got his man when he bowled Hughes between bat and pad in the second over after tea.

Watson had become 31-year-old Welegedara's 50th Test wicket, but it will be the nature of Jayawardene's one-handed catch - rather than the bowling milestone - that the dismissal will be remembered for.

Watson pushed firmly at a delivery angled across his body, the ball taking a thick edge and somehow lodging in Jayawardene's extended right hand as the Sri Lankan captain dived full length in front of a vacant third slip.

Hughes' knock was his highest Test score in Australia, easily surpassing his 37 against Pakistan in January 2010 and signalled a successful return to the international arena after he was dumped from the Test team following a double failure against New Zealand in Hobart a year ago.

As well as depositing Rangana Herath (0-47) into Blundstone Arena's Southern Stand for a huge six, Hughes found the boundary eight times and scored to all corners of the ground during an assured innings.

Earlier, Welegedara had made the initial breakthrough by removing opener Ed Cowan (four) in the sixth over of the day.

Cowan badly misjudged a short delivery to spoon a pull shot to mid-on and must have looked on ruefully as Hughes and David Warner (57) added 79 for the second wicket, a partnership that promised plenty more until a mix-up between the wickets saw the pugnacious left-hander well short of his ground in the final over before lunch.

The Blundstone Arena pitch didn't offer anything like the assistance to seam bowlers as had been predicted leading up to the match, Welegedara the only Sri Lankan wicket-taker.

Dangerous spinner Herath found little turn on the first day surface, but did manage to tie up the southern end for long spells as Sri Lanka tried to slow the scoring rate whenever possible, even retaining a deep point for much of the afternoon.

The new ball almost brought about Clarke's dismissal and the Australian skipper was twice beaten in one Shaminda Eranga over late in the day, the athletic right-arm quick clearly the sharpest of Sri Lanka's pace attack and unlucky to finish wicketless.

Clarke appeared to be hobbled after clipping the inside of his knee while attempting to defend an Eranga delivery on the leg side, but recovered sufficiently to pass 1400 Test runs for the calendar year an over later.

His golden year continued when he added another half-century to a long list of milestone knocks and, with the rest of this match and the Boxing Day test still to come, is well within sight of Ponting's Australian record 1544 calendar-year Test runs set in 2005.

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