Kusal Mendis’s return to top gear with an innings of 194 in Sri Lanka’s first Test match against Bangladesh was indeed magical. Having plodded to finding his nick, Mendis was quick to transform his batting in to a run harvesting stroke-play unleashing 19 boundaries and 4 sixes at the Galle International Stadium.
It was a knock that put back the muscle of character from a hiccup of poor form at that level for the young star from Moratuwa who turned 22 on February 2. A characteristically free scoring batsman, Mendis considered a key U-19 find for the future, was quick to fire his way with the bat using his feet to good effect in a display of strokes all round the wicket. He did maximize his trademark hook and pull to put the Bangladesh bowlers to the sword.
Mendis’ strongpoint is the natural inherent gift of handling the willow which he did with the aplomb that speeded him to his ton in style. His ascension to full light was more the remarkable having come to the crease with Upul Tharanga ‘s early departure. That he stepped in as the star when the side needed a star performer after Dinesh Chandimal too perished early was self assuring. His 196-run record fourth wicket alliance with Asela Gunaratne ground Bangladesh down to the dust.
If for Mendis, the 285-ball knock spanning 19 boundaries and 4 sixes in moving to his second Test ton was sweet redemption from a long drought, to the left handed Gunaratne the 85-runs off 134 deliveries containing 7 boundaries was compelling middle order stuff. While it served his cause cementing permanency, in his case as well as Mendis’ missing out on magical marks was due to lack of caution. Gunaratne fell trying to needle a ball from off to leg and deflecting on to his stumps when well set for the three figure mark while Mendis threw a certain double ton that was within his sight out of the window by trying to do it in the style of a six only to be caught on the boundary line. Still fresh on the big stage, the duo need to go through the mill to acquire the wisdom of cutting down the impetuousness in the harsh rigors of 5-day Test match cricket, and the value of stock raising milestones.
Both batsmen had played out roles in contrasting ways of laying the foundation for Sri Lanka’s mammoth 494 by day two.
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-