Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf
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This was Mitchell's fifth Test hundred, in 25 innings, and his second in his hometown of Christchurch. Since making his international debut in 2019, Mitchell - now 31 - has become an integral part of the national side, across formats.
"To do it at home here in front of my family is pretty cool, and to do it in the circumstances where those runs were needed," he said after the day's play. "I never knew if I would actually be able to get one Test hundred, let alone be where we are now. Every one is special.
"I guess I'm a late bloomer in international cricket. To represent my country across all the formats is something I've dreamed of since I was a kid."
Although New Zealand at times looked in danger of conceding a lead of perhaps 100, Mitchell lauded the fight, which he said is just part of the way his team plays. Through the course of his innings, Mitchell put on significant stands with Tom Latham, Michael Bracewell, Tim Southee, and Matt Henry. But before all that, he had had to battle through some incredibly probing bowling in the third session of day two.
"It's a typical Hagley wicket in that it has got pace and bounce there," Mitchell said. "I thought the Sri Lankans bowled extremely well last night. They built a lot of pressure and were relentless. You needed a little bit of luck to get through that patch as well. That was nice. And then to put on partnerships with the boys and get us to a total that put us ahead of the game was awesome."
Henry was the other standout batter on day three. Coming in at No. 9, he struck a bruising 72 off 75, which featured ten fours and three sixes. His 69-run partnership with No. 10 Neil Wagner was in fact the best of New Zealand's innings, and saw the hosts move past Sri Lanka's first-innings total. They eventually established an 18-run lead.
"I thought Matt Henry's knock was special. He has obviously got great hand-eye coordination, and some of the sixes he hit were massive. Every run is really important in a Test like this. For him to go out and get 70-odd at his home ground is pretty cool.
"We know as Kiwis we'll keep fighting and keep trying to find ways to win. We back each other to do a job, and it was awesome to see Henry go out and play his natural game, and more importantly build partnerships and get us to a total that we thought was perfect for that first innings."