“Perera has all it takes to become a world-class all-rounder. He has been in the international scene for over 9 years now and he is still seen as a largely inconsistent performer with both ball and bat”
At 121 for 5, it was a lost cause for Sri Lanka when Thisara Perera walked in at No. 7. Sri Lankans lost two more wickets as Asela Gunaratne and Seekkuge Prasanna were dismissed in the next over. Opener Danushka Gunathilaka’s 73-ball 71 was the stand out performance with the bat until then, but one felt it was just going to be a matter of time before Sri Lanka would get cleaned up and New Zealand took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series. New Zealand indeed did take a 2-0 lead, but they were made to toil hard in the end. Perera turned out to be the thorn in their flesh as he almost gave his side an improbable win. Sri Lanka still needed 199 to win from exactly 25 overs at 7.96 runs per over, with just 5 wickets remaining. With a couple of more wickets in hand, things would have seemed even, but New Zealand at that point were set for a landslide victory.
Sri Lanka captain Lasith Malinga is not known for his batting, but with a bit of luck and determination, he stuck around with Perera. He let Perera take most of the strike and do most of the scoring, while he ensured that he kept his wicket intact. Sri Lanka went past 200 and after putting on 75 for the eighth wicket, Malinga was cleaned up by Trent Boult for 17 off 22. It was a decent contribution from the skipper. It was still New Zealand’s game. Perera had already reached 59 off 33 by then. Perera had taken a special liking to Tim Southee and Ish Sodhi, who he dispatched with utmost ease. He was a bit cautious against Boult, but with 10 overs or so left, Perera started taking on him too. His strikes were clean and the ball travelled a fair distance when he hit them.
Against Southee and Boult, Perera’s strike-rate was more than 200, while it was the least when he faced Matt Henry – 145.45 – which spoke volumes of Perera’s dominance in the match. Henry was the only bowler Perera failed to hit for a six.
The table below will give you a fair idea of Perera’s dominance.
|Perera against||Runs scored||Balls faced||Boundaries||Strike rate|
|Southee||46||20||3 4s, 5 6s||230|
|Sodhi||26||15||2 4s, 2 6s||173.33|
|Neesham||23||14||1 4s, 2 6s||164.28|
|TOTAL||140||74||8 4s, 13 6s||189.19|
Perera’s clean hits were a treat to watch. He played extremely well with the tail and whenever he got on strike, if the ball was in his arc, he would swing his bat. More often than not, the ball cleared the boundaries with ease. He played well within the ‘V’ in front of the wickets and if it was a short ball, he guided it over the short third man with a minimum of fuss. At the same time, he showed immense faith in the tail and was very rarely seen denying singles when there was a chance. Had the tail not hung on the way they did, we may have never witnessed Perera’s brilliance.
After the match, Perera revealed that the coaching staff have to be thanked for pushing him from No. 8 to 7. In fact, there isn’t much to tell between batting in those two positions. At 8, Perera has 722 runs at 18.51, while at 7 – the position he batted at Mount Maunganui – Perera has scored 868 runs at 22.50. However, his average shoots up to 29.33 at No. 6 in 13 innings, but that position is not a place where we will see Perera bat on a regular basis. After his blistering knock today, it is safe to say that Perera will certainly be given a longer run at No. 7. Having lost the series already, Sri Lanka can really express themselves in the final match of the series at Nelson as they have nothing to lose.
Sri Lanka eventually lost the game by a narrow 21 runs, but the morale in the dressing room would be on the higher side after coming so close. They now know where they need to improve and a win in the final ODI will imply that they have worked on them.
His gradual improvement in batting in last few months has not gone unnoticed. He scored a mature unbeaten 51 against South Africa at Pallekele at No. 7 to help Sri Lanka to a match-winning score. He also slammed a couple of 44s in the ODI series against England – All at No. 7.
When it comes to his bowling, Perera can bowl at good pace and at the same time bowl clever slow or change of pace deliveries to fox the batsmen. He often bowls as the first or second change and along with Malinga can be entrusted to bowl in the death. He has not particularly been good with the ball in this series, but can be counted upon to deliver when the team needs the most.
Perera has all it takes to become a world-class all-rounder. He has been in the international scene for over 9 years now and he is still seen as a largely inconsistent performer with both ball and bat. He has started 2019 with a bang already and this could very well be the year Perera transforms himself into a consistent and dependable player for Sri Lanka. With the World Cup just months away, Perera will go into the tournament as one of their most experienced players and there is no reason why he cannot deliver at the grand stage.