Thisara Perera's Perfect Baazigar Innings Jolts Kiwis In Their Own Backyard

Aur haar ke jeetne waale ko Baazigar aka Perera kehte hai

New Zealand were in a comfortable space sending 7 Sri Lankan batsmen back to the dressing room by the 27th over, with 192 needed off 23 overs. The visitors’ tail was exposed and Thisara Perera had just played 5 balls and scored a single. With the required run rate jumping to more than 8 runs per over, and three wickets in hand, everyone expected the 2nd ODI to be over soon and the hosts to clinch the ODI series.

Many Sri Lankan fans left the Bay Oval stadium after the batting collapse, but the ones who stayed were in for a treat. Perera, realising that the run chase would soon be out of his grasp if he doesn’t take the attack to the opposition, launched a counter attack.

It started with an odd boundary, and soon turned into big hits. He got support from skipper Lasith Malinga, who tried rotating the strike. He shared a 75-run partnership for the 8th wicket. Meanwhile also completing his half century in just 28 balls.

With Malinga getting out and the chase becoming intense, the swing of his blade was getting fierce with every delivery. The left-handed batsman kept the run-rate under control, and guided Lakshan Sandakan to stay at the crease as long as he could by talking to him from the non-striker’s end.

Slowly the target of 320 started looking more achievable. In just 57 balls, he got to his maiden ODI century, the one which came more than nine years after his limited overs debut. Before the 29-year-old could digest the fact that he got to the milestone in his 147th ODI, Sandakan lost his wicket in the 43rd over.

The left-handed batsman knew by now that it was just a matter of one delivery, swiping hard at almost every delivery. He got lucky a few times, but the pressure got the better of athletic Kiwi fielders. They number of catches they dropped in this game was astounding to say the least.

In the 46th over, his sixes started to look even bigger. It seemed as if he was not a batsman holding the willow, but a butcher scathing through Tim Southee’s experience as a death bowler. He struck 4 sixes in the over dragging down the required run rate to just 6.5 runs per over.

But hitting huge sixes takes a toll on a batsman’s body. After all, he struck 13 of them, with one going into the car park. The physio came running in the middle trying to fix his back spasm. In the end it was a terrific catch from Trent Boult after a miscued shot, which brought an end to Perera’s marvelous innings.

He scored 140 off just 74 deliveries. The joint highest individual score by a Sri Lankan against New Zealand in ODIs, and 15th highest score by a batsman in a losing cause while chasing. Tillakaratne Dilshan is the only Lankan batsman to have scored more (160 vs India) while chasing in a lost cause. The list doesn’t end there. His 140 is the third-highest by a batsman at No.7 or below in ODIs and also joint second fastest century in losing cause.

It is a tough job managing a run-chase while batting with the tail, but Narangoda Liyanaarachchilage Thisara Chirantha Perera did it exceptionally well. It brought back the memories of Michael Bevan, Chris Cairns, Sachin Tendulkar single-handedly keeping the match alive.

He won the admiration and respect of the crowd acknowledging a once in a lifetime innings getting a hero’s welcome walking back to the dressing room. In the end Sri Lanka lost the match by 21 runs and with it the ODI series but Perera stood out of the lot playing the perfect Baazigar innings.

Let’s think short term, first ODI

That’s how you make a comeback

It took them almost a decade to promote him up the batting order

Well deserved!

Another narrow escape for Kiwis

He didn’t get the backup though

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