Sri Lanka pulled off an astounding against-the-odds run chase with 153 not out by Kusal Perera and a record last-wicket partnership of 78 to beat South Africa by one wicket in the first cricket test on Saturday.
Perera almost single-handedly won the game but No. 11 batsman Vishwa Fernando played a crucial role as he hung around for 27 balls for his 6 not out to allow Perera, with nothing to lose, to throw caution to the wind at the other end and ultimately take Sri Lanka charging home.
Chasing an unlikely 304, Sri Lanka was 226-9 and looked out of it at Kingsmead with the 10th wicket an apparent formality.
But Perera and Fernando had other ideas and carried the inexperienced tourists — written off at the start of the series — to a thrilling victory on the fourth day. Even Dale Steyn and top-ranked test bowler Kagiso Rabada couldn’t break their last stand.
Perera scored 67 of those 78 runs for the last wicket and fittingly won it with a late cut down to the boundary for four, prompting Sri Lankan players to sprint from the dressing room out onto the field to congratulate their match winner. Perera removed his helmet and thrust both arms up in the air to celebrate one of the best innings ever by a Sri Lankan, and one of the team’s most remarkable victories.
Perera batted for more than five hours over two days — Sri Lanka was 52-3 when he arrived at the crease — to set up the highest successful run chase ever for Sri Lanka away from home. He hit 12 fours and five sixes in his second test century and first in three years.
“I’m a bit tired now,” Perera said. “Especially good effort as a team, especially the lower-order batsmen there giving me support.”
The partnership between Perera and Fernando was a record for the highest 10th-wicket partnership to win a test. The previous best was 57 by Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mushtaq Ahmed for Pakistan against Australia 25 years ago.
The 304-9 was also the third-highest successful run chase in nearly 100 years of test cricket at the Kingsmead ground in Durban.
And Sri Lanka’s scintillating victory gave it a 1-0 lead in the short two-test series and ended South Africa’s run of seven straight home series wins in dramatic fashion.
“I thought Perera was unbelievable,” South Africa captain Faf du Plessis said. “A superman effort. He deserves all the accolades that will come to him after this game.
“We can go back and try and figure out where it went wrong and what we did wrong and what we could have done better but, end of the day, it was an amazing batting performance.”
Kusal Perera’s innings the best since Lara’s chase at Barbados in 1999? Coincidentally, that was also 153 not out. Also, made just two weeks after having his helmet smashed in at Canberra. #SAvSL
— Adam Collins (@collinsadam) February 16, 2019
Kusal Perera !!!! WOW …. One of the greatest Test innings of all time …..
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) February 16, 2019
KJP just scored what could be the greatest innings ever in an overseas run chase by a Sri Lankan batsman. Brings back memories of the brilliant hundred by @MahelaJay against @OfficialCSA in 2006 at The P Sara
— Kumar Sangakkara (@KumarSanga2) February 16, 2019
At an event so missed the South Africa -Sri Lanka test. Surely Kusal Pereira’s innings has to be among the greatest in 4th innings run-chases.
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) February 16, 2019
Has to be one of the all time great innings that from Kusal Perera! Great for him, great for Test cricket! Wow! What a result!
— Sanjay Manjrekar (@sanjaymanjrekar) February 16, 2019
That was one of the most incredible passages of cricket I’ve seen. Kusal Perera rockets into the catalogue of greatest Test innings. The record for highest 4th-innings 10th-wicket stand to win a Test has been smashed. Was 57, now 78.
— Andy Zaltzman (@ZaltzCricket) February 16, 2019
Did someone say test cricket is dying?? Sri Lanka!!! you beauty, take a bow Kusal Perera and well done to @IamDimuth for a historic win. #SAvSL congrats @RusselArnold69
— Ashwin Ravichandran (@ashwinravi99) February 16, 2019
KUSAL PERERA! Remember the name. one of the greatest Test wins of alltime. one of the lifetime innings. what a win for the young Sri Lanka against all odds. Incredible teams effort. a Test captaincy debut to remember for Dimuth. Test cricket at it’s absolute best. @IamDimuth ??
— Daniel Alexander (@daniel86cricket) February 16, 2019