But everyone was in for surprise, as Watson fell in the second over of the day, bowled by Suranga Lakmal without adding to his overnight score. The Australians went slowly, partly due Test debutante Shaun Marsh finding his feet, but also due to Sri Lanka having their tails up for the first time in a long time. Hughes was the next to go, falling to Suraj Randiv for a patient 36, but at 97/2, Australia were behind by only 77.
Marsh and Michael Clarke took Australia past 100, but Chanaka Welegedera struck to remove the Australian captain for just 13, and 116/3, Sri Lanka were sniffing a chance of evening the playing field. Marsh and Michael Hussey ensured no further losses for Australia as the teams went to lunch with the visitors 132/3.
The runs started to flow after the break, with an over for Tillekeratne Dilshan conceding three boundaries. The 150 came and went, with Hussey surviving a close run out chance while on 39*. But Australia marched on, with Shaun Marsh putting his team into the lead with a boundary.
He was feeling good enough to hit Seekkuge Prasanna for three boundaries in an over, two of them consecutive, with the second of them bringing up his half-century on Test debut. The 200 came up easily enough, Sri Lanka's hard fought, but brief, comeback a fading speck in the rear-view mirror by now. Hussey took a while to reach his own 50*, but got there with a smashed boundary. The 100 partnership came up shortly after, as the relentless run accumulation continued. Tillekeratne Dilshan threw everything he could think of at the Australian pair, including Kumar Sangakkara with the new ball, but there was to be no karmic revenge for Sangakkara or Sri Lanka. At the tea break, Australia were standing tall at 251/3.
But only four and a half overs of play were possible in the final session, as bad light brought Day 2 to a premature end. Sri Lanka were glad for a cessation of hostilities, while Shaun Marsh was stranded an unlucky 13 runs away from what would be a Test century on debut. No other complaints from Australia, as they went to stumps on 264/3, leading by 90 runs with still 7 wickets in hand.
Apart from the early passage of play, when Sri Lanka took three big Australian wickets for 56 runs, this was all one-way traffic. Youth and experience combined well to ensure that despite Ricky Ponting being in Australia for the birth of his second child, he was not badly missed.
For Sri Lanka, more of the same - probably made a little worse by the fact that they did fight back, however briefly, before Marsh and Hussey started piling on runs after runs. The lead is only 90, and if the Lankans can start Day 3 well, like they did on Day 2, then we may have a game, and a series on our hands.
If they don't, then Tillekeratne Dilshan's tenure as captain might be a short one.
Day 2: Australia 264/3 (Shaun Marsh 87*, Suranga Lakmal 14-2-60-1)
lead Sri Lanka 174 all out
by 90 runs with 7 wickets remaining