Marsh is taking Test cricket in his stride with a commanding 87 on his debut against Sri Lanka [AFP] 

Shaun Marsh was 13 runs away from a century on his debut and Michael Hussey hit an unbeaten 76 as Australia piled on Sri Lanka's misery in the second Test in Pallekele on Friday.

The West Australian pair put on 148 for the unbroken fourth wicket as the tourists moved to a commanding 264-3 in their first innings when bad light halted play soon after tea.

Marsh was on 87 and Hussey followed his match-winning 95 in the first Test in Galle with another half-century as Australia built a 90-run lead with seven wickets still in hand.

The pair joined forces after Sri Lanka had grabbed three quick wickets in the morning session to restrict Australia to 116-3 in reply to their own 174.

Former Australian opener Geoff Marsh looked on from the stands as his 28-year-old son mastered the Sri Lankan attack with 11 boundaries after a dour start.

Marsh had come into the Test side in place of former captain Ricky Ponting, who had to return home after Galle for the birth of his second child.

The knock will help the left-hander cement his place in the team even when Ponting returns for the third and final Test in Colombo from September 16.

Half-century Hussey

Marsh drove Suranga Lakmal through the covers and then chipped debutant leg-spinner Seekkuge Prasanna over mid-on to take Australia past Sri Lanka's total.

Two successive boundaries off Prasanna, a lofted shot and a straight drive, gave Marsh his half-century from 133 deliveries.

Hussey reached his second half-century of the series by smashing off-spinner Suraj Randiv to the square-leg fence for his sixth boundary.

The hosts missed their two first-choice spinners, Ajantha Mendis and Rangana Herath, who were forced to skip the match with injuries.

Sri Lankan captain Tillakaratne Dilshan tried seven bowlers, including part-timers Kumar Sangakkara and Thilan Samaraweera, to try to contain the tourists.

        Shane Watson was the first wicket to fall for Australia on the second day [AFP]

Sangakkara, who had gone wicketless in 98 previous Tests and has just one first-class wicket to his credit, also bowled the first over with the second new ball.

Australia lost Shane Watson before they had added to their overnight score of 60 for no loss, and the other opener Phil Hughes fell shortly after the drinks break.

Watson had made 36 when he left alone a delivery from seamer Lakmal that dipped in to uproot his off-stump.

Left-hander Hughes carried his overnight score of 23 to 36 before he was snapped up at forward short-leg by Tharanga Paranavitana off Randiv.

It soon became 116-3 as skipper Michael Clarke (13) attempted to drive seamer Chanaka Welegedara outside the off-stump and edged a low catch to Mahela Jayawardene at second slip.

Clarke has now gone 22 Test innings without a century since making 168 against New Zealand at Wellington in March last year.

Australia lead 1-0 in the three-match series having won the first Test by 125 runs last week.

Source: Agencies