Sri Lankan youngster Kusal Mendis overturns match with maiden Test ton against Australia
21-year-old Kusal Mendis came up with one of the greatest shows of batting from recent times in the Kandy Test against Australia on Day 3, rescuing Sri Lanka single-handedly from a precarious position to a competitive lead of 196. For a good while on Thursday, it looked as if Mendis would break the longest standing record in Test cricket – the highest percentage of runs by an individual in a team score, still held by Charles Bannerman’s 67.34% from the first ever Test in 1877.
The Australia-Sri Lanka series features some world class batsmen, but it is the relatively unknown Mendis who has managed to score the first 50+ score of the tournament. When Mendis had walked into bat, Sri Lanka were 6/2 and had just lost a wicket in the first over of the morning. They still required 80 runs to make Australia bat again. Play was to be suspended for bad light much later in the day, but as for the hosts, the sun seemed to have set on their fortunes very early in the morning.
However, what followed at the Pallekelle Stadium left everybody surprised – even the main actor of the event, Kusal Mendis – school cricketer 3 years ago suddenly turned into Aussie tormentor. While wickets fell in a heap all around him, Mendis played on nonchalantly, racing to his individual century in 143 balls. He had scored only one FC century in his short career till then, but looked nothing less than the part of a seasoned matchwinner – hitting mostly down the wicket, but not reluctant in punishing bowlers if they strayed on line and length.
Mendis hit a six off Nathan Lyon to bring up his ton, showing rare confidence even when his first major landmark in Test cricket was so near. Some support from Dinesh Chandimal and Dhananjaya de Silva meant that Mendis finished the day without having beaten Bannerman’s historic mark, but there a few records he has scaled – he has become the highest scoring Sri Lankan in a home series against Australia. He has also become the youngest Sri Lankan centurion against Australia. Seeing how easily he went about his business on Day 3, it will be no surprise if Mendis bats on to a double century and beyond and breaks further records.
Sri Lanka will resume batting on Day 4 with a lead of 196 runs and with 4 wickets in hand. They shall be looking to take the lead beyond 300 and then push for a victory, something which had looked very unlikely in the match till Mendis stepped in to have his say.
The social media has been buzzing with news of youngster Mendis’ feat, with many analogies already having been drawn between him and past greats like Aravinda de Silva and Mahela Jayawardene.
How some from the world of cricket reacted:
I feel a little sorry for Kusal Mendis. Imagine playing what may be one of the greatest innings when your career has barely started— mike selvey (@selvecricket) July 28, 2016