Liyanage finished with 3 for 61 off 25 overs, but crucially Jones was dropped off his bowling when he had made only a single. The Durham recruit went on to forge an unfinished sixth-wicket partnership of 68 with Greg Matthews to take Australia from the depths of 72 for 4 to 177 for 5 at the close.
Early morning rain cut 12 overs from the first session in which Liyanage had Tom Moody caught behind off an outswinger for one with his third ball in Test cricket, the second over of the match.
Moody's opening partner, Mark Taylor, was out just before lunch for 15 to a bat-pad catch by Sanath Jayasuriya off Chandika Hathurusinghe, making Australia 35 for 2 at the break.
Sri Lanka picked up two wickets in the afternoon session, David Boon for 28 and Mark Waugh without scoring, both caught by Jayasuriya in the bat-pad position.
Boon batted for two hours and hit four fours before becoming Liyanage's second victim, while in the next over Waugh fell to the pace of Champaka Ramanayake.
After tea, and a further delay for rain which cost another 12 overs, the tourists' captain, Allan Border, was bowled by Liyanage for 15. Australia lead the three-Test series 1-0.Reuse content