Durban: Kusal Perera carried Sri Lanka to a sensational one-wicket win on the fourth day of the first Test against South Africa at Kingsmead on Saturday as he hit a career-best 153 not out.
Perera and Vishwa Fernando put on an unbeaten 78 in a last-wicket partnership to secure only Sri Lanka’s second win in 14 Test matches in South Africa.
Victory seemed unlikely when the ninth wicket fell with the total on 226, with the tourists chasing a target of 304.
But the left-handed Perera successfully farmed the strike, with South African captain Faf du Plessis persisting with wide-spread fields for the in-form batsman, while Fernando only had to face 27 balls during a 96-ball partnership.
Perera was on 86 when the ninth wicket fell but managed to keep most of the strike and to hit some telling blows in an innings of 200 balls which included 12 fours and five sixes.
“It was a superman effort,” said Du Plessis. “He (Perera) deserves all the accolades.”
South Africa took the second new ball with the total on 263 but still kept most of their fielders on the boundary for Perera, who hit sixes off both Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada before slashing Rabada to third man for the winning boundary.
Perera, who came into the match with a career batting average below 30 and with his only previous century in 14 previous Tests having been made against Zimbabwe in Harare two seasons ago, shared three important partnerships.
Brief scores: South Africa 235 & 259 lost to Sri Lanka 191 & 304/9 in 85.3 overs (K. Perera 153*, D. de Silva 48, Maharaj 3/71).