Kusal Perera, Sri Lanka’s hero in their one-wicket heist in Durban on Saturday, 16 February, said the victory was “special” for his team after some tough days on recent overseas tours.
South Africa seemed set to take a 1-0 lead in the series when Sri Lanka, chasing 304, were reduced to 226/9, having been well-placed at 206/5.
Perera, who resumed the day on 12, had sealed up one end and scored his second Test century, but the collapse at the other very nearly rendered his efforts in vain.
Sri Lanka have done it!— ICC (@ICC) February 16, 2019
Kusal Perera's 153* takes them over the line with one of the greatest innings in the history of this brilliant game!
Absolutely incredible.#SAvSL FOLLOW ⬇️ https://t.co/ILua51ZiiN pic.twitter.com/M23vZKId1S
However, Vishwa Fernando’s dogged 27-ball 6* kept Sri Lanka alive, and Perera did the rest, scoring an unbeaten 200-ball 153*. The two put on a 78-run partnership for the 10th wicket – the highest ever in a successful chase in Tests – and Sri Lanka took a 1-0 lead.
“I'm still tired now. I don't know what to say,” Perera said shortly after play. “Great effort as a team, specially the lower order batsmen. They gave me good support. I believed in myself and we did (it). I did my part, (but we won) as a team. We did our homework. This is a special win for us. We did a lot of hard work in previous times.”
It's disappointing as it's just a two-match series. We'll come back stronger
Perera came in for plenty of praise from the opposition as well. "Incredible game of cricket,” said Faf du Plessis, the South Africa captain. “(We're) obviously disappointed. Great for the game of Test cricket. Perera was unbelievable – Superman effort.”
Things could have been different had South Africa not encountered a collapse of their own on the third day – they lost five wickets for just eight runs to be bowled out for 259.
What an amazing win. One of the best if not THE best overseas win by @OfficialSLC Kusal Janith Perera was unreal. Congratulations to the team and @CHathurusinghe keep believing and keep fighting. If you compete for long enough the opportunities to win come your way.— Kumar Sangakkara (@KumarSanga2) February 16, 2019
Despite that, du Plessis believed the 304-run target they set would have been sufficient on another day, and suggested the result could have been different had Vernon Philander, the paceman who couldn’t take the field due to a hamstring injury, been available.
“I thought 300 was enough. Great batting took it away from us. I'd be lying if I say there wasn't emotions going through inside. Difficult for a captain, tactically.
“Brilliant bowling from Dale (Steyn) again. Disappointed not to have Vern (Philander) today. I'd have backed the four bowlers to take 10 wickets. It's disappointing as it's just a two-match series. We'll come back stronger.”