Magnificent Mendis puts Sri Lanka in charge


Kusal Mendis struck a superb maiden century as Sri Lanka moved into a strong position on day three of the first Test against Australia, building a lead of 196.

The 21-year-old - playing in his seventh Test - played with great patience throughout in Pallekele, interspersing his innings with some flamboyant strokes, including a huge six to reach three figures.

Mendis only had one first-class century to his name coming into the match, but struck an unbeaten 169 from 243 balls as Sri Lanka finally found their feet with the bat, although his team-mates struggled to offer much support as the hosts closed on 282-6.

After enjoying such a fruitful day in the field on day one, it was a much tougher challenge for Australia on Thursday, made even harder by an injury to Steve O'Keefe.

The spinner pulled up during the second session with a hamstring problem and played no further part in the day's play, leaving the likes of Adam Voges (0-3) and Steve Smith (0-1) to enter the attack.

Sri Lanka dominated the first session thanks to the impressive Mendis, the youngster keeping his cool as others around him lost theirs - Kaushal Silva (7), Dimuth Karunaratne (0) and Angelo Mathews (9) all falling early.

Dinesh Chandimal (42) finally provided him with support after lunch, the pair putting on 117 for the fifth wicket - the same total the whole of the Sri Lanka team amassed in the first innings.

They had some luck, though, as Australia were made to rue wasting their reviews earlier in the day, Chandimal surviving two shouts for lbw while also being dropped by Mitchell Starc (2-44) off his own bowling.

Mendis' big moment came in the 43rd over of the innings as he took the attack to Nathan Lyon (2-98), the final ball of the set of six launched over the deep midwicket boundary.

Eventually Chandimal's luck ran out as he was trapped in front by Mitchell Marsh (1-33), but Mendis found more support from debutant Dhananjaya de Silva (36) as Sri Lanka's lead began to grow.

De Silva became only the third player to reach double figures as he showed good touch on both sides of the wicket, his straight drives particularly impressive.

But the youngster became Lyon's 200th Test dismissal after tea as Usman Khawaja took a routine catch at mid-off, De Silva misjudging the flight to throw away his wicket.

Dilruwan Perera (5 not out) joined Mendis at the crease, but the pair's progress was halted by bad light and rain, leaving Sri Lanka's lead four short of a 200 advantage with two days to play.