Sri Lanka’s Chase of a Lifetime

A team in transition is always looking around for heroes. It continually seeks for people to step up and lead from the front. And eventually, it finds certain individuals who produce something astonishing that grabs everyone’s attention. Cricket Sri Lanka has been in this phase for a while. It has been throwing up a few promising talents. Yet, there seemed no one who could do something unprecedented. Amidst a string of poor performances, loss down under and the injury woes, Sri Lanka needed something exceptional. And what transpired at Durban was nothing short of a miracle. In the first test vs South Africa, Sri Lanka pulled off a batting heist. Kusal Janith Perera produced one of the best test innings till date by a Sri Lankan to take his team to an unforgettable win. His numbers alone don’t quite tell you the story. Batsmen around the world might have scored 153 off 200 before. But it’s the match situation that often defines the greatness of an innings. And this Parera special falls short of adjectives.

The Southpaw walked in at 53-3 with Sri Lanka chasing down 304. After a 58 run stand with Oshada Fernando, South Africa got 2 quick wickets reducing the visitors to 110-5. But Parera stood tall and stitched together another solid 96-run stand with Dhananjaya De Silva before the latter was tapped in front by Keshav Maharaj. Soon, the tourists were reduced to 226-9 with the hosts on a brink. How do you approach batting when you are 9 down needing 79 more? It’s a situation where the batsman has nothing to lose. With nothing but Vishwa Fernando’s mere five Test runs from seven innings to keep him company, Perera opened up. He skipped down the track and deposited Maharaj over long on for six. After raising a sensational hundred he surpassed his previous best score with another maximum by bludgeoning Duanne Olivier over long leg. He encapsulated his brilliance by picking up South Africa’s best ever bowler in Dale Steyn as he literally cannoned the ball for half a dozen on the leg side. Even as the target was getting narrowed down gradually, it just looked beyond reach. Every time Vishwa survived another over or Perera procured the strike, it felt as if the decisive wicket was just a ball away. But it seemed as if the southpaw was batting on a different deck. Parera put on a stroke-filled exhibition, freeing his arms and carting the bowling attack to all parts of the ground. Fernando at the other end somehow, stood firm, not giving it away. And the moment finally arrived. With 4 more needed, the southpaw opened the face of the bat to guide a widish delivery away to the boundary. Sri Lanka pulled off one of the greatest chases in Test history.

On the other side, South Africa didn’t quite get their tactics right. Only Faf du Plessis will know why the new ball wasn’t taken at the first opportunity. But to take anything away from Sri Lanka and KP would be criminal.

Any adjectives for the knock won’t quite make justice. It was a batting display that pretty much defied logic. That’s probably something you need to achieve greatness. You wonder what goes through a batsman’s mind in such situations. Whatever he was thinking, the sheer gumption that Perera showed is alone worthy of praise. This wasn’t a rescue act built entirely out of steel and resolve. There was dash and daring that kept us exhilarating. Parera’ style is so similar to that of The Great Sanath Jayasuriya that your mind goes back to the carnage that the Matara Mauler has left. The fierce cuts through the off-side, the stylish pick-ups off the legs and the ability to dominate bowling – are the things that made Sanath so special. Parera is only 15 tests old, but the talent is so evident. Kusal may not enter the halls of the great man; but now, the expectations will rise. Hope this innings will inspire The Sri Lankans to come out of all the turmoil surrounding them. This was an innings to savour. Because such performances don’t come around often.

Let’s look at few of such efforts that scripted thrilling chases in the past –

1. Brian Lara (WI vs Aus, Barbados, 1999)

Chasing 308 runs against the mighty aussies, Lara walked in with the score reading 78-3. The southpaw produced probably the greatest fourth innings ton milking the menacing Aussie attack to all parts of the ground. He first added 133 with Jimmy Adams and 54 with Ambrose for the ninth wicket. In the end, he smashed a four through the covers to take his side to an improbable win in style.

2. Inzamam Ul Haq (Pak vs Aus, Karachi,1994)

The big man from Pakistan pulled off a stunning win over the Aussies by putting on an astonishing last wicket stand of 58 with Mushtaq Ahmed. Having lost a bunch of wickets from 155-3 to 184-7 and to 258-9, the hosts had given up the hopes of winning. But Inzy had other ideas. He took Pak from 258-9 to 315-9 along with Mushy to take his team over the line. The closeness of the game was shown by the final act. Inzamam offered a sharp stumping chance to Ian Healy off Shane Warne. Had Healy taken it, Australia would have won. Healy missed, Pak got four byes, and were victorious.

3. Mahela Jayawardene (SL vs SA, Colombo, 2006)

After a world record stand with Sangakkara in the first test, SL had gained the psychological advantage over the visiting South Africans. In the second test though, it was a different story as SA came back strongly by putting a stern target of 352 in front of the hosts. Jayawardene continued his sublime touch as he scored another ton and stitched useful partnerships with the lower order to put the hosts within touching distance of a win. He was dismissed with hosts needing 11 more to win. But Farveez Maharoof took his team to another thrilling win.

4. VVS Laxman (Ind vs Aus, Mohali, 2010)

Chasing 216 to win, India had slipped to 124-8 courtesy of some wonderful seam bowling from Hilfenhaus and Bolinger. But The classical Hyderabadi put on 81 runs with Ishant Sharma for the ninth wicket and 11 more with Pragyan Ojha to pull off a sensational win for India.

Prasad Palkar
Prasad Palkar
Prasad Palkar is the kind of person which is required in every startup environment, He is a go-getter and has enough passion to drive things towards its completion.