Fri, 20 Sep 2019

Humble hero Perera describes innings of a lifetime

17 Feb 2019, 07:37 GMT+10

Durban - Before Kingsmead, Kusal Perera's best offering in his 14 Test matches for Sri Lanka was a knock of 110 against Zimbabwe in Harare back in 2016.

If the world didn't know who he was after that, it surely does now.

Perera's blistering 153* on Saturday and his 10th-wicket partnership of 78 with No 11 Vishwa Fernando helped Sri Lanka chase down the 304 they needed to secure one of their greatest Test wins of all time.

Visibly and emotionally drained after spending more than five hours at the crease, a cramping Perera couldn't even make the short walk up the Kingsmead steps to do his post-match press conference.

Instead, media interviewed him on the Kingsmead turf - a ground that will forever have a special place in his heart.

It is hard to think of a more impactful innings by a touring batsman in South Africa, especially when one considers that Sri Lanka were given no chance ahead of this Test.

Sri Lankan has been at the centre of a fixing investigation, they dropped their captain ahead of the tour and they are in administrative disarray.

None of that mattered to Perera, though, who manipulated the Proteas attack and field with precision in his 200-ball stay at the crease.

The Proteas through everything it him, with the quicks of Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Duanne Olivier often going short in an attempt to bounce him out.

"On these tracks, if you're not willing to wear balls on the body, you might as well not be batting," Perera said.

"I don't know how many times I got hit - honestly, I've lost count.

"But you can't think about those things while you are batting. In Sri Lanka the fastest you get is 130-140 kph. Here you get balls that are 150 kph. When you come to a country like this, if someone tells you can bat without getting hit, that's a lie.

"We have to be smart about it. That happened to me. That's what cricket is about."

Refusing to take all of the credit, Perera praised the role his batting partners played on Saturday, particularly Fernando.

"I didn't even look at the scoreboard when Vishwa came in and we had a lot of runs to get," Perera explained.

"Vishwa tole me: 'I'll hit the ball with my body, if nothing else. You do what you can.'

"I took a lot of strength from that. Without any fear I took the single and gave the strike to him.

"He did a huge job. I don't know how many balls he faced. Those are valuable, valuable balls. What he faced was worth more than my runs."

The celebrations from the Sri Lankan dressing room could be heard long after the Kingsmead staff had left the ground.

They will savour this, and so they should.

"All I did was my role. More than looking at just what I did, you have to look at how the whole team got over the line," Perera said.

"All the batsmen contributed, especially Vishwa. He didn't give his wicket away. We managed to get a partnership of over 50. I didn't do it by myself. We did it as a team.

"You can't just mention one person or partnership. Even if you scored one run, that counted to the win. All XI of us had to bat.

"It's the best Test I've played for Sri Lanka."

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