Ajantha Mendis is better known for his bowling skills, the carrom ball in particular. On the fourth day of the third Micromax Test here on Friday, he showed another facet of his cricket.

Mendis applied himself with the bat when his side needed runs from him. His innings of 78 is the highest score by a No. 10 batsman against India in Tests. It is also the highest score at the slot by a Sri Lankan in Tests.

Crucially, Mendis came up with the innings when his side was in deep trouble. In a pressure situation, he seemed to enjoy his batting. “When I got into the national side, I did not really concentrate much on batting. Later on, I thought I must also improve my batting. I worked hard in the nets.”

He added, “When I went in to bat, the side was facing a difficult situation. I was determined to support Samaraweera. And I concentrated quite a lot. The pitch also did not help the bowlers too much during that period. It helped me. I first wanted the total to reach 150. But I was batting well and as I continued, my confidence grew.”

He said a maiden century was not on his mind. “My only intention was to accumulate as many runs as possible. Even a single was valuable because that was going to pose problems for the side batting last on the wicket.”

Mendis was optimistic about Sri Lanka progressing to a win. “We have seen that wickets tend to fall in the morning. If that happens again, we should wrap up the game by mid-afternoon.”

Indian leg-spinner Amit Mishra said, “Everybody knows after the new ball loses its shine, the wicket becomes very slow and is good for batting. Samaraweera and Mendis produced a big partnership. When a batsman is starting his innings here, there is always a chance of getting his wicket.”

Asked about the inability of the Indian bowlers to wrap up the innings, he said, “These things happen in cricket. I feel we still have a lot of batting to come. We have the confidence that we will win the match.”

On his bowling – Mishra picked up three wickets in the second innings – he said, “I just tried to bowl in the right areas.”

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