‘I am going to try and get 1000 every year’ – Mendis
On the day in which 23-year-old Kusal Mendis became the youngest batsman since 2005 to score 1000 Test runs in a calendar year, he revealed he had been eyeing up the milestone for several months.
Only four younger batsmen have ever managed a 1000-plus year, and three of them are giants of the game. Garfield Sobers, Alastair Cook and AB de Villiers had achieved the feat at age 22 or younger, with Graeme Smith – no shabby player himself – also having managed it.
Incredibly for Mendis, this was something of a comeback year. He had been dropped for Sri Lanka’s last Test tour of 2016, against India, before making a return to the Test side against Bangladesh in January. He struck 196 in Chittagong in his comeback innings, and has been consistent ever since. His two other 2018 centuries were a 102 in Trinidad, in a loss, and the epic 141 not out in Wellington last week, to save the Test for Sri Lanka.
“I’m really happy, and I did have that target in mind,” Mendis said after play on day four in Christchurch. “In the first few matches of the year I didn’t have that in my head, but later on, after I’d played a few games and scored a few runs, then I became pretty intent on getting to 1000 runs. I’m really glad I was able to do it at 23, and I had challenged myself to get there in this last game.
“Before I came to New Zealand I had 200 more runs to get, and I talked to the batting coach Thilan Samaraweera, and was telling him I still had 200 to get in New Zealand. He said there’s no reason why I couldn’t do it – get there somehow. He gave me confidence, and I got a lot of help from everyone on how I can play on the tracks here. I’m going to try and get there every year.”
The milestone was bittersweet for Mendis, however, as although he scored the 44 runs he had required to reach four-digits, he was unable to mount the kind of resistance he had managed in Wellington. He and Dinesh Chandimal had batted out the first session on day four unscathed, but Mendis fell in the approach to drinks in the afternoon session.
“It was to bat as many balls as possible, as had been the case in Wellington,” he said. “I tried to make the ball older and softer. If runs came, then that’s a bonus. So we took it hour by hour and tried to break the work up that way. I was able to bat a session and a half, but if I’d been able to support Chandi a little bit better, we might have been able to finish today without a wicket having fallen.
His had been something of a soft dismissal. Spotting a wide length ball from Neil Wagner, he drove it uppishly to short cover, where Matt Henry took a spectacular diving catch.
“I don’t think that was a great ball to drive. After looking at the replays, that’s probably what I take from it. I was trying to hit through extra cover. The fielder was close, and I hit it too far in the air. It was probably too wide. It’s one that I really could have left alone, but I made the wrong decision. Hopefully I can learn from it.”