He is a big fan of Sanath Jayasuriya, so it’s not much of a surprise that there are shades of the Sri Lankan legend every time Kusal Perera takes to the crease to bat. Blessed with a short backlift and strong forearms, Perera can be as devastating as Jayasuriya on his day and has played his fair share of match-winning knocks for Sri Lanka ever since he made his international debut in 2013.
On his 30th birthday, we have a look at his best knocks for the Lankan Lions across the three formats.
153* vs South Africa
His knock of an unbeaten 153 against South Africa isn’t just one of his best but one the greatest of all-time in the history of Test cricket. It was a see-saw Test match with Sri Lanka chasing a target of 304 in the final innings. The Proteas looked like they were on course for a win when they dismissed Kasun Rajitha with the score reading 226 for 9.
However, Kusal managed to keep his wits about him and guided his team to an unlikely win in what was an incredible finale to the Test. With the team still needing 78 for a win after the loss of Rajitha, Kusal and Vishwa Fernando stitched together a record-breaking 10th-wicket stand to guide Sri Lanka to a win. Kusal, who walked in at no. 5, was the main inspiration behind the win as wickets tumbled all around him. His epic 153 not out saw him smash 12 fours and five sixes to help his team to a one-wicket win under the most dramatic of circumstances.
135 vs Ireland
Kusal’s best ODI knock came at Dublin against Ireland in 2016. Opening the innings for the Lankans, Kusal put most of Ireland’s bowlers to the sword. Kusal and Danushka Gunathilaka added 147 for the opening wicket with the former eventually being dismissed after Sri Lanka crossed the 300-mark.
He scored 135 from 128 balls at a strike rate of 105.46 before departing. The stylish left-hander hit 16 fours and two sixes as Sri Lanka went on to post a mammoth total of 377 for a comfortable win.
116 vs Pakistan
Another high-scoring innings for Sri Lanka was when Kusal helped lay the foundation at the top during the fifth ODI of Pakistan’s tour of the island nation in 2015. Even though Pakistan had already won the series, Kusal ensured that they wouldn’t have it all their way.
He scored a 109-ball 116 at a strike rate of 106.42 and hit nine fours as well as four sixes over the course of the knock. The left-hander’s brisk innings helped set Pakistan a target of 369 to chase and after the hosts won the match by 165 runs, Kusal was deservedly awarded the Player of the Match award.
111 vs Bangladesh
Kusal was at it again with a Player of the Match performance during the first ODI of Bangladesh’s tour of Sri Lanka last year. After winning the toss and electing to bat first, Kusal walked into the crease with the score at 10 for 1.
Once he got his eye in, the talented left-hander began dominating Bangladesh’s bowlers and scored 111 from 99 balls at a strike rate of 112.12. He hit 17 fours, one six and helped Sri Lanka post 314, which was enough for them to record a 91-run win over Bangladesh.
110 vs Zimbabwe
Kusal’s first Test century came against Zimbabwe during Sri Lanka’s tour of the African nation in 2016. Walking in after the dismissal of one of the openers, he went on to score his maiden Test ton. Kusal scored 110 from just 121 deliveries and hit 15 boundaries as well as two sixes during the knock. He was eventually dismissed by Graeme Cremer but had done his job as Sri Lanka went on to score 537 in the first innings and 247 in the second to seal a comfortable 225-run victory.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Ishara S. Kodikara