Asked to bat, Sri Lanka were at a precarious 183/5in Kandy on Wednesday, 8 August when Perera walked out. It soon became 195/6, and Perera chose a measured approach to haul Sri Lanka out of the situation, and he found a suitable companion in Dasun Shanaka to execute the plan and take them to a 300-plus score.
“As soon as Dasun came, I told him that we shouldn’t stop playing our shots,” Perera said. “We are both positive batsmen, we planned three overs by three overs at the start. After a while, we realised that we were seeing the ball well. So we decided on a target of 280.
“Dasun was especially good at hitting boundaries, so we were able to pass 300. A 100-run partnership is not easy, because their bowlers were bowling well and we had lost six wickets already. But I told him let’s try and hit straight in the first few overs and get ourselves set.”
The two hit half-centuries – Perera 51* and Shanaka 65 – in a brisk 109-run stand, which powered Sri Lanka to 306/7 in 39 overs in a match severely affected by rain.
South Africa were set a revised target of 191 from 21 overs.
The visiting batsmen began well and were always in contention, but Sri Lanka’s bowlers used the swing on offer to make inroads and contain the visitors to 187/9, thus eking out a consolation victory after losing the first three games of the five-match series.
“In the 15th and 16th overs, we realised that the ball was swinging from one end,” Perera, who took 2/32, explained. “The ball was still new. So we decided to bowl wicket-to-wicket from that end, and it’s not easy to bat when you bowl like that.
“We planned to stick to that line as fast bowlers because [the batsmen] then have to take the risk to try and hit over the field. What we did in the last few overs was to forget about yorkers, and try to bowl a Test-match line and length. That’s what worked for us.”
Sri Lanka will look to finish the series with a closer scoreline when the teams meet for the final ODI in Colombo on 12 August. (Courtesy ICC)