Sri Lanka pulled off a stunning against-the-odds run chase to beat South Africa by one wicket in the first Test on Saturday as Kusal Perera almost single-handedly won the game with his unbeaten 153.
Chasing an unlikely 304, Sri Lanka were 226 for nine and seemingly out of it. But a last-wicket partnership of 78 between Perera and Vishwa Fernando took the tourists to a thrilling victory on the fourth day. Perera scored 68 of those runs, but Fernando hung in and faced 27 balls for his six not out to allow Perera to guide the tourists home.
Sri Lanka’s victory gives them a 1-0 lead in the short two-Test tour and ends South Africa’s run of seven straight home series wins.
Sri Lanka’s 304 for nine was the third-highest successful run chase in nearly 100 years of Test cricket at the Kingsmead ground in Durban and the partnership between Perera and Fernando a record for the highest 10th-wicket partnership to win a Test. The previous record was 57 by Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mushtaq Ahmed for Pakistan against Australia 25 years ago.
Perera, who threw caution to the wind and struck all five of his sixes in the last-wicket stand, won it with a late cut down to the boundary for four, prompting Sri Lankan players to sprint from the dressing room and out on to the pitch to congratulate their matchwinner. Perera removed his helmet and thrust both arms up in the air to celebrate one of the best innings ever by a Sri Lankan.
Making the victory more remarkable is that it ends Sri Lanka’s run of three series without a win in a Test featuring two debutants and a new captain.