Kusal Mendis's redoubtable 157 not out elevated the home team from the depths of despair at Tea on Day 3 of the first Test at the Pallekele International Stadium on Thursday (July 28). Mendis repelled the good deliveries and took his chances against the spin duo of Nathan Lyon and Steve O'Keefe with daring sweep shots to mastermind the remarkable turnaround.
The 21-year-old's maiden Test ton could not have come at a better time in this bowlers' dominated contest. Sri Lanka needed someone to stand up to the Australian bowlers and despite a poor start, the Lankans were 86 for 4 – Mendis fought it out with Dinesh Chandimal in company.
Mendis and Chandimal produced 117 runs for the fifth wicket and this could turn out to be a match-winning one with two days left on a pitch that has largely favoured the slow bowlers.
Mendis remained unbeaten on a match-high 86 to help Sri Lanka weather a wobbly morning and reach 116 for four at lunch. Chandimal was unbeaten on seven at the other end as the hosts erased the 86-run first innings deficit and led by 30 with six wickets in hand at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium.
After collapsing for 117 on the opening day and conceding a handy first-innings lead, Sri Lanka could not afford a second batting collapse but the hosts received an early jolt after resuming on six for one on Thursday. Australia fast bowler Mitchell Starc struck with the third delivery of the morning, trapping Dimuth Karunaratne leg before for the second time in the match.
Steve O'Keefe dismissed Kaushal Silva leg before and spin partner Nathan Lyon sent back home captain Angelo Mathews (nine) soon after switching to bowling round the wicket against the right-handed batsman.
Mendis, however, looked unfazed and went on to score his highest Test score, also the first fifty in the low-scoring match, and remained not out after hitting 13 boundaries, including two in a David Warner over close to the lunch break.