Sri Lanka’s Kusal Perera, who took his side to a one-wicket victory in the first Test against South Africa with a wonderful 153 not out under testing circumstances, recognised the effort of No. 11 batman Vishwa Fernando, saying that he found inspiration from the words of his batting partner at the other end.
When Fernando came in to bat, Sri Lanka were 226 for 9 and together with Perera, the duo put up the highest last-wicket partnership in a successful run chase in first-class cricket.
Later, Perera revealed the message that Fernando had given him upon coming to the crease. “I didn’t even look at the scoreboard when Vishwa came in and we had a lot of runs to get,” he said.
“Vishwa told me ‘I’ll hit the ball with my body, if nothing else. You do what you can, Kusal aiya’,” Perera told reporters at Kingsmead after the match.
“I took a lot of strength from that. Without any fear I took the single and gave the strike to him.
“He did a huge job. If he had got out, there wouldn’t have been a point, because we would have been all out.
“I don’t know how many balls he faced. Those are valuable, valuable balls. What he faced was worth more than my runs.”
Fernando battled for a career-high 6 from 27 balls as he and Perera took numerous blows from menacing pace attack of South Africa.
“It’s the best Test I’ve played for Sri Lanka,” said Perera, who also top-scored in the first innings with 51.
South African conditions provide testing times to batsmen from all around the world and it took an immense effort from Perera to see his side to victory with a 78-run partnership for the last wicket.
“In these couple of matches, I think I’ve copped six or seven blows to the head. In these tracks, if you’re not willing to wear balls on the body, you might as well not be batting," he said.