Lyon impressed by Mendis masterclass
Nathan Lyon hailed the composure shown by Kusal Mendis after the 21-year-old batsman turned the first Test between Sri Lanka and Australia on its head with a sensational innings.
In only his seventh Test, Mendis almost single-handedly lifted Sri Lanka out of trouble on day three in Pallekele, striking 169 not out from 243 deliveries to move the hosts to 282-6 and a lead of 196.
Mendis' epic knock was all the more remarkable for the fact he had only made one first-class century prior to Thursday and arrived at the crease with his side at 6-2 and with 22 wickets having gone down for 326 runs in the match.
Australia off-spinner Lyon, who was able to celebrate his 200th Test wicket after dismissing Dhananjaya de Silva late in the day, said: "It's probably got a tad easier to bat, but you've got to give credit where credit's due.
"For the young fella [Mendis] to get 170, he's batted out of his skin, he's played extremely well.
"It's been a tough day for the bowlers, but the good thing about Test cricket [is] we'll bounce back tomorrow and look forward to taking the new ball and hopefully some early wickets."
Asked to define the most impressive aspect of Mendis' breakthrough innings, Lyon added: "I think just the composure. He's only 21 and the way he went about it [was impressive].
"He had a simple gameplan and he stuck to it the whole day. Hats off to him - he batted extremely well."
Speaking through an interpreter, a smiling Mendis prompted laughter among the media when suggesting Sri Lanka would look to set Australia "the maximum possible, perhaps 400."
The youngster added: "When I walked into bat, it was very clear what my role was going to be, so I tried my level best and stuck to the plans.
"I wasn't thinking about the lead [of 86 Australia had after the first innings]. I went out and batted the way I would have batted in the first innings."
Australia's cause was hampered by an injury to left-arm spinner Steve O'Keefe, who limped off with a hamstring problem.
"I feel he [O'Keefe] was the biggest threat to the right-handers. It was a setback for Australia, for sure," said Mendis, who expects the wicket to provide increasing assistance to the slow bowlers on days four and five.
Lyon added: "I feel sorry for Steve. he's one of my good mates and to see him injure himself and for Australia to lose a vital member of our bowling attack, it's a pretty big loss for us."