These are great times for Test cricket – and for the underdogs. We have just had West Indies getting the better of England in the three match series and now even more sensationally we have had Sri Lanka defeating South Africa in the first Test at Durban.
West Indies beating England was certainly a surprise but Sri Lanka shocking South Africa is clearly a much bigger upset. For one thing South Africa are ranked No 2 and Sri Lanka No 6. Secondly Sri Lanka are going through pretty lean times the ultimate humiliation being losing all three Tests to England at home where they traditionally have been formidable. Third the match was played in South Africa.
Most significantly it was the manner in which Sri Lanka pulled off one of the truly great victories in Test cricket. Right through the four days South Africa were always ahead and Sri Lanka had to get the highest total in a match of moderate scores to win it. That they did so was remarkable enough but the fact that it took an unbroken last wicket partnership of 78 runs to steer them to victory constituted a storybook finish. This was the highest last wicket stand in the fourth innings to win a Test bringing to an unbelievable denouement a match that enhanced the image of Test cricket. More games like this and we will not have the ICC chairman moaning about how Test cricket is dying.
No praise can be too high for Kusal Perera. The 28-year-old left-hander was up against arguably the best pace attack in the world even in the absence of Vernon Philander. But he not only took blows on his body and helmet he counter attacked in thrilling fashion hitting Dale Steyn and company for sixes in a tense situation. Even as last man Vishwa Fernando proved equal to the task Perera blazed forth with a series of breathtaking shots, all the time farming his strike expertly.
A stunning victory like this will do Sri Lankan cricket a world of good and they certainly could do with a morale booster. They came to South Africa after being pummelled in Australia. The captain Dinesh Chandimal was sacked. The Sri Lankan players were hardly known around the cricketing world and the team had rookies galore. Perera himself had suffered a mild concussion in Canberra just a couple of weeks ago after being struck on the head by a ball from Jhye Richardson. But after what happened in Durban things could very well change for the better. Kusal Perera has assured that.