On a day when Daryl Mitchell, along with Tom Blundell, yet again carried the New Zealand batting, Kumar Sangakkara gave an insight into the former’s preparation.
For more than two months, Sangakkara as Rajasthan Royals’ head coach saw Mitchell at close quarters, with the Kiwi batsman turning up for the franchise in this year’s IPL. And although Mitchell played just two matches in the tournament, his head coach fell for his attitude.
“He carried his iPad to every team meeting, took notes and asked questions. It wasn’t asking questions for the sake of asking questions, he was heavily involved. The way he carried himself, in a bio-bubble for over two months, the hard work he put in at the nets despite playing two matches, it was top-class,” Sangakkara said on Sky Sports commentary during the first day of the third Test between England and New Zealand at Headingley.
The former Sri Lanka captain wasn’t surprised at Mitchell’s smooth transition from T20 cricket to the red-ball version despite very little adjustment time. The 31-year-old being “a student of the game” was expected to do it.
Mitchell so far has scored 451 runs in the on-going three-match series, including two centuries in the first two Tests. On Day One at Headingley, he remained unbeaten on 78. He had a close shave on eight, when medium pacer Matt Potts trapped him plumb in front, but on-field umpire Marais Erasmus negated the LBW appeal and England captain Ben Stokes didn’t review. Hawk-Eye showed that the ball was hitting middle and leg.
The hosts paid for it, as Mitchell and Blundell (45 not out) initiated New Zealand’s recovery from 123/5, through an unbroken 102-run sixth wicket stand. The Kiwi pair so far has put on 593 runs in this series, but the lack of batting contributions around them has proved to be New Zealand’s bugbear. The tourists are trailing 2-0 and playing for pride, and the World Test Championship points, in the third Test.
On Thursday, Mitchell was also involved in Henry Nicholls’s bizarre dismissal, as an uppish drive from the latter against left-arm spinner Jack Leach deflected off Mitchell’s bat-face and went straight to Alex Lees at mid-off.