Australia may have only made 273 runs in their first innings at Galle on Wednesday, but Michael Hussey, the top-scorer, believes it is a competitive total, given the dusty nature of the pitch.
Hussey scored 95 to rescue Australia after Sri Lanka stung the tourists with pace and spin on day one of the first Test on Wednesday.
The left-hander narrowly missed his 14th century as Australia recovered from a shaky 157 for five at tea to 273 all out by stumps.
"A lot will depend on how we bowl tomorrow [on Thursday]," said Hussey. "This is the driest first day wicket I have seen. The ball does tend to come up awkwardly. It will not be easy to bat on as the game progresses."
Ricky Ponting, the former captain, was the only other batsman to resist the Sri Lankan bowlers, making a fluent 44 even as the top order floundered around him.
Suranga Lakmal, the seamer, and Rangana Herath, the left-arm spinner, claimed three wickets each to give Sri Lanka the edge at the Galle International Stadium.
Herath agreed with Hussey's assessment, saying that the morning session would be crucial.
"If we can end the day around 300 for five, we will be in a very strong position," he said. "The key will be not to lose too many wickets before lunch.
"This wicket is no different from what we have seen in Galle in the past. There is bounce and turn, but bowlers still have to exploit the surface.
"I think we have done very well to restrict a team like Australia to under 300. But the batting too must come good."
Hussey was last man out, leg-before wicket to Tillakaratne Dilshan, the Sri Lanka captain, after a heroic four-hour knock that included three sixes.
Sri Lanka had one over to face before close, but the umpires called off play for bad light as soon as the batsmen had walked in.
There was no sign of the panic to follow when Michael Clarke, the Australian captain, won the toss and decided to bat after the start was delayed by an hour due to overnight rains.
Australia raced to 28 for nought in six overs. But Dilshan introduced Herath in the seventh over and the bowler met with immediate success when Shane Watson was caught behind off his first delivery.