Cricket - Cricket-Australia still in charge after openers fall in Hobart

By Nick Mulvenney

HOBART, Dec 17 (Reuters) - David Warner and Ed Cowan hit half centuries in a 132-run opening partnership to help Australia to 146 for two, and a lead of 260, at lunch on the fourth day of the first test against Sri Lanka on Monday.

Both were removed in the half hour before the break to leave Phil Hughes, who had made nine not out, and all rounder Shane Watson, unbeaten on two, to resume for the second session at Bellerive Oval.

Sri Lanka were dismissed after tea on day three for 336 in reply to Australia's first innings 450 for five declared and their bowlers struggled to make a breakthrough on a cool, sunny morning in Hobart.

Spinner Rangana Herath had been belted for a six and a switch-hit four by Warner but got his revenge when his carrom delivery tempted the batsman into an attempted cut and the ball took a bottom edge and carried to wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene.

Warner (68) was just starting to open up having reached his fifty with a one-bounce four off Herath to achieve half centuries in both innings for the first time in his test career after his 57 on Friday.

Cowan joined his partner in the pavilion 15 minutes later for 56 when seamer Chanaka Welegedara finally got some movement off the pitch and swung in a delivery which hit the Australian's pad before taking off the bails.

The partnership was the best the pair had achieved since their 214 against India in Perth last year and will erase at least some of the question marks surrounding Australia's top order.

Cowan had been fortunate to survive what looked like a plumb lbw on Sunday evening when Sri Lanka declined to go for an appeal to the television umpire.

The tourists did make an optimistic appeal for a catch off Herath in an attempt to break up the partnership when Cowan was on 34, but the television pictures showed no sign of a nick.

The 30-year-old reached his fifth test half century with a late cut for four behind deep point off Welegedara.

Sri Lanka have never won a test in Australia and will be looking to wet weather and time to help them save a draw in this match, with further tests in Melbourne and Sydney to come in the series. (Editing by Peter Rutherford)