MOUNT MAUNGANUI, New Zealand (AP) — Thisara Perera smashed 13 sixes in an astonishing display of power hitting which took Sri Lanka to the brink of a remarkable win over New Zealand on Saturday in the second one-day international.
Perera was the last man out on 140 — with Sri Lanka ending on 298 in 46.2 overs — as a chastened New Zealand held on to win by 21 runs and clinch an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
Allrounder Perera came to the wicket at No. 7 with his team struggling at 121-5 after 25 overs — and 128-7 two overs later — in reply to New Zealand’s 319-7. Undaunted by a seemingly impossible position, he blasted his way to a century from 57 balls, beating his previous best ODI score of 80.
Perera overall hit 110 runs from boundaries — 13 sixes and eight fours in an innings of 14.
After Sri Lanka lost five wickets for 16 runs through the middle of its innings, Perera expertly marshaled the Sri Lanka tail, farming the strike to continue an assault that the New Zealand bowlers appeared unable to counter.
He put on 75 in an eighth-wicket stand with captain Lasitha Malinga, then added a further 95 for Sri Lanka’s last two wickets with tailenders Lakshan Sandakan and Nuwan Pradeep. Perera simply encouraged those batsmen to block out the bowlers until he could get back on strike and take up the contest again.
“First off I’m really proud of myself because it’s my first century,” Perera said. “For the last eight years I’m batting No. 8 or No. 9 and if I’m batting No. 7 I can get more time at the crease so I thank the coaching staff for trusting me.”
Strong winds at the Bay Oval helped to carry the boundaries when hitting downwind. Perera’s onslaught was also boosted by one of New Zealand’s worst fielding performances in recent years — at least 10 chances went to ground from the usually safe hands of players such as Martin Guptill, Trent Boult, Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls.
Perera said he always believed a win was possible.
“I told the last few batsmen it’s very hard to hit on this ground because of the wind, so I had to take the responsibility throughout the innings,” he said. “I already spoke to Nuwan and Sandakan and said ‘Please play even six balls per over so I can take the strike from the other end.'”
New Zealand’s total fell well short of the 371-7 it achieved on the same pitch at Bay Oval in the first ODI two days earlier when it beat Sri Lanka by 45 runs.