* Australia trail by 53 runs (updates at tea)
By Nick Mulvenney
SYDNEY, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Phil Hughes and David Warner both fell short of centuries as Sri Lanka deployed their spinners to stem an Australian run-spree and restrict the hosts to 241 for three at tea on the second day of the third test on Friday.
Hughes scored a stylish 87 and Warner a more pugnacious 85 in a 130-run partnership for the second wicket but both departed after lunch to leave captain Michael Clarke (42) and Mike Hussey (18) at the crease at tea.
Looking to overhaul Sri Lanka's 294 and put Australia in the driving seat for a 3-0 series sweep, Hughes and Warner had plundered runs against a patched-up pace attack in perfect batting conditions on a sunny Sydney morning.
The lefthanders reached lunch having both passed 50 after the only breakthrough in the first session came when opener Ed Cowan ran himself out for four.
Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene finally introduced spinner Rangana Herath, however, and the most prolific wicket-taker in test cricket last year almost had an immediate impact with a strong lbw appeal against Warner.
It was turned down and a TV appeal showed the ball was turning too much to hit the leg stump but half an hour later the opener was heading back to the dressing room.
The 26-year-old, who had reached his half century off just 37 balls, could not resist a slash at a Tillakaratne Dilshan delivery only for the ball to balloon up into the air for Dhammika Prasad to take the catch backtracking at long-on.
Hughes had shown that for all the rebuilding of his technique he could still cut the ball like few other batsmen but he fell trying another on 87, traditionally considered the unlucky number for Australian batsmen, when he got a fine edge to a Herath delivery and was caught by Dinesh Chandimal.
Hussey, who will retire from international cricket after this match, received a huge ovation from the crowd as he came out to bat and was welcomed to the crease by a guard of honour from the Sri Lankan players.
It was Clarke, the most prolific batsman of last year, who caught the eye, however, and he punished anything loose from the Sri Lankan bowlers, most notably when he hit a towering six and a lofted four off Herath in consecutive balls just before tea. (Editing by Greg Stutchbury)
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