Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford, who has previously praised Kusal Perera's technique, described Kusal Mendis' 176 as "one of the best" he's seen, and said the batsman's temperament had impressed him as well. At the end of day four, Mendis' innings still appears a monumental anomaly in a match in which the next highest score is 47.
"What can you say? It's one of the best innings I've ever seen," Ford said. "It was. He seemed to have a plan - and option - against all the bowlers. He showed real composure. The odd one did explode and turn on him but he didn't bother about the previous delivery. He just focused on the next ball and got on with the job. He is an amazing talent. He works really hard and really loves the game."
Mendis' innings was anomalous because of its tempo, as well as its size. Of top-order batsmen to breach 30 in this Test, no one else has had a strike rate of over 60. With his innings only spanning 254 balls, Mendis struck at 69. It is also anomalous in the context of his brief career so far - his previous highest in Tests had been 53 in Leeds.
"He's batted at no. 3 in all formats across the last couple of months, and shown wonderful maturity," Ford said. "He's shown signs each time of the possibility of making big scores. There have been really exciting cameos each time, but fortunately now he's got one of those big innings under his belt, it will hopefully lead to a lot more.
"He also just seems an extremely relaxed young man. Nothing really fazes him. He enjoys playing and he can't wait to get out there and bat. Doesn't seem to show any signs of nerves. He plays positively and plays his shots. He went to his hundred with a six - no nervous nineties. He definitely puts a lot of thought into it. He works hard. But there's no signs of him being too bothered, or worried about failure, which is quite a nice way of going about his business."
Since debuting against West Indies in October last year, Mendis has largely filled the no. 3 position vacated by Kumar Sangakkara. "Had you still had the Sangas and the Mahela Jayawardenes, Kusal would have ideally been blooded at no. 6 or 7," Ford said. "But without anybody really putting their hand up to grab that no. 3 spot, we thought he was the guy to get in and had the technique to handle it. Each time he went out there he looked like he had real capabilities to become a world-class and match-winning no. 3. So we decided to run with him and he's paid us back."