“The calibre of a player is known when he constantly picks up wickets against the biggest sides, and with a stunning average of 9.90 against Australia as well, Perera has made it a mark to outshine the others when the situation does get challenging”
It is often difficult to state why a certain cricketer takes a fancy to a particular rival. VVS Laxman’s love affair with the Australian side is one for the ages and Ricky Ponting’s run-scoring streak against the Indian team has gone on to find a place in many record books, with his mere presence on the crease capable of sending waves of fear across the nation. There still exists that undefinable charm when a bowler rips apart a team against whom he has tasted prior success. “Will he or will he not?” remains a question that forces one to sit up and witness the game in anticipation and in excitement. Will the past records rework again or will a new chapter be scripted, where another team member will go on to make a mark!
Dilruwan Perera, in his short 29-Test career, stands out as one such player who brings out his very best whilst playing against the South African unit. In 54 innings, Perera has scalped 109 wickets at an average of 35.73 and a strike-rate of 66.3 – numbers that escalate massively when the opponent in question is South Africa. Though he has played only 2 full games against them, that too way back in 2014, he has been able to take 16 wickets in the 4 innings, averaging an impressive 23.12. In the fifth innings against them – the first Test match between the two sides in Galle, he picked up 4 wickets in 23 overs, which improved his average even further. It now stands at 20.80, and his strike-rate of 54.4 shows that his success against the team is not based on mere luck, but upon his technical genius against a side whose, struggles against spin are well documented.
The last time the South Africans toured the Emerald Isles, the visitors did end up winning the series 1-0, but not before the pair of Perera and Rangana Herath troubled them, with the latter picking up 12 wickets in the two games. Contrary to what many would think, Perera’s wickets were all top-order batsmen; batsmen who were caught off-guard by the web that he managed to weave around them.
In 2014, he dismissed Hashim Amla twice, while opener Dean Elgar was sent back two times as well. Quinton de Kock became Perera’s victim in 3 of the 4 innings, while AB de Villiers too was unable to read the off-spinner’s googlies and lost his wicket to him on two occasions.
What had caught the eye then, was the manner in which Perera forced the batsmen to play along the tight line and lengths that he kept bowling over after over. He pitched regularly in the good length areas, and stuck to a tight line which bore fruit when 50% of his dismissals in the series were either bowled or LBW scalps. He continued with his accurate bowling in the first innings at Galle as well, forcing the African counterparts to play almost 19% false shots against his deliveries – the most in any Test innings that he has bowled in.
After two quick wickets, Perera got into the game first by bowling a full-length ball that drifted onto Elgar’s pads and then getting the rock-steady Amla with a tossed up delivery that spun from the off into the right-hander. There was an extra bounce on offer as well, and it was clear that the bowler still had a lot to offer in the innings.
He returned to clean up de Kock with a peach of a delivery. The ball pitched down on the middle stump as the wicket-keeper shuffled across the wrong line, displaying the serious lack in reading the spinners. He finished up Vernon Philander to pick up his tenth four-wicket haul and his fourth against South Africa.
The calibre of a player is known when he constantly picks up wickets against the biggest sides, and with a stunning average of 9.90 against Australia as well, Perera has made it a mark to outshine the others when the situation does get challenging.