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Sri Lanka 6-1 at tea after dismissing Australia for 203

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PALLEKELE, Sri Lanka (AP) Facing a deficit of 86 runs, Sri Lanka reached 6-1 in its second innings in the first test against Australia before persistent rain brought play to an early close on Wednesday.

Australia made an early breakthrough when Kusal Perera, promoted to opener in place of regular Dimuth Karunaratne, was trapped lbw by fast bowler Mitchell Starc for four.

An early tea was taken shortly after, but no more play was possible - meaning that more than two full sessions of the match have already been lost due to rain.

Earlier, spinners Rangana Herath and Lakshan Sandakan took four wickets each as Sri Lanka - having scored a lowly 117 after electing to bat first - dismissed Australia for 203 in its first innings.

Adam Voges, who top scored for Australia with a watchful 47 off 115 balls featuring only three boundaries, thinks Australia fell a bit short.

''We felt if we had one or two good partnerships we would have probably got a 100-plus lead,'' Voges said. ''A little bit of missed opportunity there. We know in these conditions you need to get bigger scores and big partnerships.''

But Australia could not get on top for long enough spells against Sri Lanka's new-look spin attack.

Having bowled out opener Joe Burns for three runs on the first day, Herath continued his good form on Wednesday by claiming the prize wickets of captain Steve Smith (30) and Usman Khawaja (26) before snaring Peter Nevill (2) to finish with 4-49.

Sandakan clean bowled Mitchell Marsh for his first test wicket and had an impressive return of 4-58 from 21.2 overs on his debut.

''Any bowler's confidence improves when the batsmen continue to get beaten,'' the 25-year-old Sandakan said. ''That's when I felt that I could do my part as a pair with Rangana.''

On a difficult pitch, and with Australia resuming on the second morning at 66-2, Herath had Smith stumped and then trapped Khawaja lbw as Australia slipped to 70-4.

But Australia recovered thanks to 60-run partnership between Voges and Mitchell Marsh, which was broken when left-arm wrist spinner Sandakan bowled right-hander Marsh with a straighter delivery for 31.

Herath struck again shortly after by having Nevill caught by Kusal Perera to leave Australia on 137-6.

Voges continued to defy Sri Lanka but his resistance ended when he was caught at slip by Kusal Mendis off seamer Nuwan Pradeep - who had removed opener David Warner for a duck on the first day - leaving the visitors on 160-7.

Sandakan cleaned up the tail, but met resistance from fellow spinner Nathan Lyon, who scored a breezy 17 before Sandakan got him lbw.