When I saw Angie get hit, I thought there's no way I'm getting out - Mendis

Angelo Mathews and Kusal Mendis walk off after having batted through the day
New Zealand v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Wellington, 4th day December 18, 2018

Watching a resolute Angelo Mathews face down hostile New Zealand bowling, inspired Kusal Mendis to hunker down, dig deep, and put a high value on his own wicket.

Sometimes guilty of playing attractive but insubstantial innings, Mendis partnered a steadfast Mathews for the entirety of day four in Wellington, as the pair became the first to survive an entire day of Test cricket in over a decade. Their partnership, worth 246, was also Sri Lanka's highest for any wicket against New Zealand, and has given the visitors a chance of avoiding a defeat in the first Test, after surrendering a 296-run first innings lead.

ALSO READ: Records galore for Mathews and Mendis

The pair had come together with Sri Lanka seemingly hurtling towards a big defeat, with the score on 13 for 3. But they saw out the final overs of day three, and batted out 90 overs together on Tuesday.

"When we had lost three wickets yesterday, I was batting with Angie and he was giving me a lot of support," Mendis said. "He got hit twice on the body, and he came up to me and told me: 'Hit the ball somehow, even if it has to be with your body.' When I saw him playing like that, I also thought there's no way I'm giving away my wicket. So that's how I played."

Mathews was frequently seen coming down the pitch to advise Mendis, especially as the younger batting partner endured a few nervous moments in the approach to completing a century. Mendis said the words of advice right through the day had helped keep him going.

"If there was a ball that I chased outside the off stump, Angie would be having a word with me. That really helped me out. Sometimes watching him get through a tough spell, that showed me how I can do that as well, so I learned a lot. Applying what I learned from him was what helped me get through the day."

There had been a period in the day, however, when Mendis and Mathews had been on different wavelengths. Although after lunch Mendis adopted the same defensive approach that Mathews had modeled, he had struck seven boundaries and scored 60 off 95 balls in the morning session. That burst of scoring, though, wasn't entirely planned, he said.

"What I'd actually talked about with the coach was to bat a lot of balls, rather than focus on scoring runs," Mendis said. "When I went to the middle that changed a bit, and I managed to get a few quick runs. Then I got a message from the dressing room that I should bat the way I had previously planned. So then I thought about that original plan, and after lunch started to focus on playing out a lot of balls. What we had wanted was to bat all day and reduce that lead.

"I saw Angelo played a lot of dot balls and he wanted to make the ball old. So I thought, if he's playing this way, why can't I do it? Because we needed to bat all day, I changed my approach."

Among the main challenges Mendis and Mathews were tasked with defusing, was the short-pitched bowling of Neil Wagner. Mendis said the Sri Lanka coaches had prepared the batsmen for short bowling for several months now, and while that preparation helped, he had also had to come up with a plan to counter Wagner while at the crease.

"What I wanted to do when Wagner bowled short at me was to not react. If I played a pull and mistimed it, he would probably bowl a few more at me, because he'd be excited by seeing that. So I tried to do what was within my capability. More than playing the pull, I'm better at ducking. So I did that, and then tried to go for those shots only after the ball got a bit older."

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