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Kusal Mendis: 'Think the future of Test cricket is to not play out many dot balls'

He brings ODI tempo to Test cricket, hitting 140 at a strike rate of 73 on a day in which Sri Lanka scored at over four an over

Kusal Mendis scored a sprightly Test century - his first in three years  •  AFP/Getty Images

Kusal Mendis scored a sprightly Test century - his first in three years  •  AFP/Getty Images

Kusal Mendis has a theory: Test batting is becoming more and more like ODI batting. This came at the end of a day in which Sri Lanka scored at 4.38 an over on a supremely flat surface at Galle. But still, in the Bazball era, perhaps everyone else is ramping up scoring rates too.
On day one, against Ireland, Mendis made 140 at a strike rate of 73. But he was the slower of Sri Lanka's two centurions - Dimuth Karunaratne hit 179 at a strike rate of 76.
"When I play red-ball cricket, I start more cautiously and don't attack as much, but I think that's about the only difference," Mendis said. "When I settle, I bat normally, like I would in a one-dayer - I look for singles."
Mendis ramped a bouncer for four when he was in the nineties, so it does feel as if he believes what he's saying. He'd also got to fifty with a six down the ground.
"I think the future of Test cricket is to not play out so many dot balls - teams are playing to win. As the gaps open up, a lot of people are looking for runs. It's like one-dayers. Apart from the start, I don't see a big difference in the ODI and Test formats."
On the personal front, this was Mendis' first Test hundred in three years, his last having come against Zimbabwe in January 2020. He'd suffered both a discipline-related suspension, and a woeful run of form since then, having collected four ducks in a row between the end of 2020 and the start of 2021. He'd hit six fifties in 15 innings since he returned to the Test side in 2022, however.
"I'm really happy about the hundred. For a long time, the team only got fifties from me," Mendis said. "There were times in which the team lost out on a hundred from me. I was able to do what the team needed from me. I was able to give them 100%, and I'm pleased about that. The pitch is good, so it's good for my batting and for my form.
"In all three formats in the last year I've been in the runs. I've played about eight years for the national team. I think that experience is helping me to do well. It's hard to do well immediately. It takes time. Now I think the team and the country will benefit from that."
Mendis had hit three fifties across four Test innings, two ODI knocks, and three T20Is, in New Zealand. He said it had been tough to adjust to Sri Lanka's heat and humidity in April (Test cricket is not ordinarily played at this time, on the island). But perhaps, Ireland - playing their first Test here - also could not offer up as stiff a challenge on a pitch Mendis himself described as unusually flat.
"In New Zealand the conditions are very different - the lengths, the pace," Mendis recalled. "A lot of things are different. When you come back home, though, you don't need to practice that much to readjust. You bat a couple of days and bat how you want to again. It's hard to compare Ireland bowlers to New Zealand's bowlers, but they are coming with a different plan. These bowlers are not attacking as much - they are trying to bowl line and length consistently. So it's different.
"It's hotter here in Galle than it is for our matches usually. We also only had seven days since we got back from New Zealand to readjust to this heat. With that it's tough for batters and bowlers to play big innings or bowl big spells."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf