The Black Caps might end up being thankful that rain is set to disrupt the final day of their test against Sri Lanka, because Kusal Mendis reckons he could bat for another full day.

At least, that's what he hoped, sharing a laugh at the end of a memorable day which saw he and Angelo Mathews bat unbroken throughout, rescuing Sri Lanka from what looked like a surefire defeat at the Basin Reserve.

Resuming at 20-3, the pair saw the visitors through to 259-3 by stumps – the first instance of a side batting through a completed day of test cricket in New Zealand without losing a wicket.

The pair also followed in the footsteps of some Sri Lankan batting greats, with Sri Lanka now having accomplished that feat on five occasions. Remarkably, they once managed it on back-to-back days, with Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama unbroken for two consecutive days as Sri Lanka made their famous 952-6 in 1997, while Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene also brought up the milestone when they combined for their world record stand of 624 in 2006.

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Mendis and Mathews won't have the opportunity to reach those heights, but their unbeaten partnership of 246 is the best for any wicket against New Zealand, and Mendis – 116 not out - explained how their resolute rearguard came about.

"When we had lost two wickets yesterday, I was batting with Angie and he was giving me a lot of support. He got hit twice on the body, and he came up to me and told me: 'Hit the ball somehow, even if it has to be with your body.' When I saw him playing like that, I also thought 'There's no way I'm giving away my wicket.'"

Kusal Mendis celebrates his sixth test century as a frustrated Neil Wagner looks on. Photo / Getty
Kusal Mendis celebrates his sixth test century as a frustrated Neil Wagner looks on. Photo / Getty

Mendis has long been labelled as Sri Lanka's future batting star. At 21 years old, he scored a brilliant 176 in a test win over Australia, on a Pallekele pitch where no other player passed 55.

Still yet to turn 24, Mendis now has six test centuries and 2357 runs, but had suffered through a rough patch of late, with just one 50 in last 13 test innings.

However, Mendis gave credit to departing batting coach Thilan Samaraweera for restoring his confidence, and allowing him the opportunity to make history today.

"I'm really thankful to Thilan because I was in a really low place. I had failed in about 15 one-dayers, and still the coach and Thilan refused to drop me. They let me play tests again. I was only able to get here because they stood by me. I was only able to do this because of them."

Batting Through An Entire Day For Sri Lanka

1986 - Asanka Gurusinha and Arjuna Ranatunga (Going from 83-3 to 323-3 v Pakistan)
1997 - Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama (Going from 39-1 to 322-1 v India)
1997 - Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama (Going from 322-1 to 587-1 v India)
2006 - Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene (Going from 128-2 to 485-2 v South Africa)
2018 - Kusal Mendis and Angelo Mathews (Going from 20-3 to 259-3 v New Zealand)