KUSAL PERERA played one of the most significant innings for Sri Lanka outside the sub-continent to get his side over the line for a one-wicket victory over the Standard Bank Proteas in the first Castle Lager Test match at Kingsmead on Saturday. In plain statistics Perera (153 not out off 200 balls, 12 fours and 5 sixes) scored more than half the 304 runs needed for victory and shared an unbroken 10th wicket partnership of 78 with Vishwa Fernando who stuck it out during a time when the Proteas could take the second new ball in the final few overs to finish on 6 off 27 balls.
For both batsmen it was their highest Test match score. Castle Lager Man of the Match Perera finished with 204 runs in the match which itself was a remarkable statistic as he had only scored 686 runs in his previous 14 Test matches. It was his second career century with both of them having been made on the African continent. Sri Lanka’s total was the third highest successful runs chase at Kingsmead and their victory was only their second in South Africa – the previous one having also occurred at this venue in 2011. If Perera was the day’s hero then Fernando was not far behind him, particularly taking into account the 8 wickets he took as well (4 in each innings), nor was Dhananjaya de Silva whose 96-run partnership for the sixth wicket with Perera also had a lot to do with the outcome.
The Proteas twice looked to hold a winning hand, first when Dale Steyn took two wickets with successive deliveries in the morning session and then when Keshav Maharaj broke through into the Sri Lankan tail with 3 wickets. But they could not get the wickets of Perera or Fernando. The Proteas were not helped by the hamstring niggle suffered by Vernon Philander that kept him off the field for the entire final day and they will also be left to reflect on the fact that their batsmen did not make enough runs in either innings. The Sunfoil Education Trust (SET) benefited to the extent of R217 500 from the boundaries and sixes hit and wickets taken by both sides during the course of the match. The second Castle Lager Test starts at St. George’s Park next Thursday.