You were obviously quite hurt when you were dropped from the limited-overs teams, but you've scored a lot of Test runs over the past few weeks. Had you set yourself a goal?
I did exactly the same things that I've been doing for the past 10 years of my career - how I prepare myself for every tournament. Regardless of what has happened, that has not had any impact on me at all. I work hard every single day. The situations won't change my training or thinking.
What was your preparation like for this New Zealand tour in particular?
This is not an easy place to bat because not only do you have challenging conditions, you're also up against a high-quality, world-class bowling unit. I've played three or four games here before, and that experience also helps me to score runs. You sort of know how to play when you play a few games here. Shot selection is important. I also had a chat to Kumar Sangakkara before the match, because he had got a double-hundred in Wellington in the last match we played here. I just wanted to know how he went about it, and what his thought process was.
What advice did he give you?
Mostly we spoke about thought process and shot selection. He talked me through the shot selection that he used for each different bowler, and how he tackled them. Then I used my experience of the matches which I played here. I used that as an experience as well and took his advice too.
You got to 80-odd against England, and 83 in the first innings in Wellington. How frustrating was it not to go on to a century?
I was really disappointed to have got out for 80-odd in the first innings, because that means you are set. In these conditions it's very difficult to get set, but once you do, you've got to make it count and make it big. Glad that I took the opportunity to score big in the second innings.
You started the second innings on the third evening, and pretty soon Sri Lanka were 13 for 3, and New Zealand were dominating. Talk us through that period.
They were coming really hard at us and they were trying to bowl short at our bodies. As long as I don't put my bat in the way, I knew that I wasn't going to get out. That's why I just stood there getting hit on the body. I thought it will hurt a little bit, but it's not going to get me out. That's the message that I wanted to give the bowlers as well: "You can bowl short as much as you want, but I'm not going to just throw it away." That was a very critical moment for us on the third evening. Kusal and I just spoke about hanging in there and getting through the overs, because the next day will be a completely different day. It happened to be so.
Must have had more than a few bruises?
(Laughs) Absolutely, but the bruises were all worth it. The way I started that innings and was able to deal with the short ball really gave me confidence going into the next day. The first few balls anywhere in the world is very important for a batter, but here especially you have to be tight.
You'd been out to the short ball in each of your three previous innings. Did that play on your mind?
Not really. I always look at it in a positive way - it's a scoring option for me. But when I want to leave I will leave, depending on the fields they have set. It's really important to understand how they are trying to get you out with that short ball. I've got out a few times with the short balls, but I've scored a lot of runs with it as well.
When you went in on day four, did you give any thought to the possibility that you'd bat all day?
My idea was not to bat the entire day. I was just playing the ball on its merits. I thought that if I get some loose deliveries, I'll score off those ones. You can't be flamboyant on that wicket. The odd one keeps low as well. The drives were also quite tough on that wicket. We had to select our shots and wait for the loose deliveries before pouncing on them. In New Zealand you also have to leave well and duck well. I tried not to think about it too much - just play it as it comes.
Kusal Mendis said he drew inspiration from watching the way you played. Was there anything that he did during the partnership that you adopted as well?
We had a few chats. It was a very important day and a very important three sessions for the entire team, and the team always comes first. He's just an amazing player to watch. He's a gun batsman. Such a free-flowing player, and the bowlers have a really tough time when he gets going. I was really happy to see him get a big hundred.
As a senior, it must have been pleasing to see a young player completely change his style and produce that kind of gritty innings...
It's always nice to see that kind of maturity in such a young player. With our experience we know we will get better at our games, but he's a step ahead. He put the team first and we did what the team needed us to do. We kept exchanging our ideas.
Before the England series, your Test form over the last couple of years had not been what it was back in 2014-15. Do you feel you've rediscovered a bit of your old self now?
I felt like I've been batting well right through - it's just that I wasn't converting the starts that I got into big ones. I wanted to make it count. When a batsman gets a start that means you're set. I haven't been converting fifties into hundreds. I was personally disappointed with that. But I was hitting the ball in the past year or so.
Did the pressure of captaincy or injuries play a role in your failing to convert?
I don't think any of those came into play. When I came back into the team after injuries I felt like I was hitting the ball really well. Also it comes down to the wickets that we play on as well. You can play on rank turners at home, and we play on grassy wickets overseas. You do get a good ball every now and then - but that's not an excuse. I can't really pinpoint a big reason, and I don't want to give excuses.
Tell us about those push ups…
(Laughs) I think the message was quite clear.
You started bowling in this Test as well, after almost two years without rolling your arm over. Do you feel your fitness is in a better place now?
The plan anyway had been for me to start bowling in the New Zealand tour, counting back from the World Cup next year. Nothing has changed. Nothing specially sparked me to start bowling on this tour. In terms of fitness I've always pushed myself and done my best. Those moments have not changed me as a person and a player. I'll always keep striving to do the best I can physically.
You've still got a long way to go in this away season, with tours of Australia and South Africa coming up as well. Do you feel you've set yourself up nicely with the runs you made in the first match?
It's going to be an extremely long tour for the entire team. It's important to enjoy every single moment. There's going to be some challenges thrown at us. The thing for me as a batsman is that if I get a start, I've got to really capitalise and score as many runs as possible.