Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 2nd ODI, Pallekele June 10, 2012

'Impact' player Perera shows his class

As the strength in Sri Lanka's bowling seems to be shifting from spin to pace, Thisara Perera's all-round skills are proving of great value to his side

The challenge for any team visiting Sri Lanka, till some years ago, was taking on an array of spinners on turning pitches. Muttiah Muralitharan and Upul Chandana were a handful, and there was also Sanath Jayasuriya to deal with. Sri Lanka's present bowling attack, however, has a different make-up.

With Murali's retirement and Ajantha Mendis falling off the radar, a once spin-heavy attack is reliant on seam-bowling allrounders. The emergence of Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perara, two bowlers of similar pace, has expanded Sri Lanka's options. Perera is turning into one of Sri Lanka's bigger impact players in the limited-over formats.

As a batsman, Perera has been identified as a finisher, coming lower in the order for the slog overs. As a bowler, he slots in as the third or fourth seamer, depending on the composition. His athletic prowess and reflexes make him an asset in the field. In four matches during the ongoing home series against Pakistan, Perera excelled in all three disciplines.

He's created a healthy competition with Mathews. Both started their careers at roughly the same time, though Mathews' injuries have restricted his bowling. An injury to Mathews before the 2011 World Cup final gave Perera an opportunity, and his unbeaten nine-ball 22 took Sri Lanka to 274.

He struggled for consistency in the next couple of tours, but reminded the selectors of his capabilities with a 44-ball 69 in a high-scoring chase in Kimberley, during the tour of South Africa. In the CB Series in Australia, another 'impact' innings was an 11-ball 21 in a tense chase against Australia in Hobart. Perera swung Daniel Christian for a four and a six to narrow the equation in Sri Lanka's favour.

Perera missed the Asia Cup due to injury but on his comeback, against Pakistan in the first Twenty20 in Hambantota, he muscled an unbeaten 32 after the main batsmen failed. His knock, plus a diving catch at third man, seemed to perk up Sri Lanka's body language in their successful defense of a low score.

In the second ODI in Pallekele, Perera won the Man-of-the-Match award mainly because he managed what the frontline seamers did not: pick up top-order wickets. His cameo, a 14-ball 24, was an appetiser to what was to come. He came out to bat in a relatively pressure-free scenario, after Mahela Jayawardene gave the innings mileage as Dilshan steadily progressed to his century. Perera sent the ball scorching past Saeed Ajmal to the straight boundary, before slogging him over deep midwicket. He then dispatched Umar Gul over square leg to take Sri Lanka towards 280.

After ten wicketless overs in Pakistan's chase, Perera was called upon as the second-change bowler. He had immediate impact. Mohammad Hafeez chipped the ball back towards the bowler, and Perera managed to fling himself in the opposite direction of his follow through and pluck the catch one-handed. He was denied Younis Khan's wicket at the start of his fourth over, but the wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara made amends for his botched catch four balls later.

Perera had taken 2 for 24 in his first spell of five overs. His second, though, was more incisive. He struck with the first ball yet again, trapping Misbah-ul-Haq on the back pad with an offcutter. The pressure began to pile on Pakistan because the boundaries had dried up. Perera, however, was fortuitous in getting Umar Akmal's wicket, as replays showed the ball missing the edge on the way to the keeper.

A new spell brought another wicket off the first ball. Sohail Tanvir failed to clear square leg and Perera had picked up his third five-for in ODIs, to go with his spells against India in Dambulla, and Australia at the MCG.

Perera's rise has won him the praise of his captain Jayawardene, who can only see him getting better. "I have always said that Thisara is an exciting prospect. Even at a young age he showed lot of potential although he hadn't played that much," Jayawardene told the Sunday Island. "Obviously with the talent he has got he is like someone like Shahid Afridi, who can clear the boundary."

After Farveez Maharoof failed to nail down the same position despite several opportunities, Perera has been the impact player Sri Lanka have been looking for.

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dimuthu on June 10, 2012, 21:33 GMT

    Priyantha Gunaratna is spot on in his analysis, I feel. Perera can really make the lower/middle order hitting role his own and continue to get the breakthroughs with his bowling as 1st or 2nd change. No need to get excited and mess about the batting order. If you all think back to the 60+ innings he scored in SA (his only international 50) he started off slogging, but then played some excellent 'normal' shots too. Oddly, he seems to get his eye in by hammering and then starts to play proper shots. This shows some potential for test cricket if he can reverse the order for that form of the game, and also work on playing the short ball.

  • udendra on June 10, 2012, 16:54 GMT

    so he's virtually kicked out Maharoof? also he bowls quicker than Angi.

  • Dummy4 on June 10, 2012, 13:53 GMT

    Thisara batted at No. 8 in England and SA tours in tests. He was successful when he could connect big hits. But against short pitched stuff from genuinely quick bowlers he was bounced out and looked all at sea. He should continue to bat in his present position and make use of any opportunities he gets to bat higher up in the batting order to play some long innings. It is not at all advisable to open with him on a regular basis since he is not a recognized batsman at international level and cannot be compared to Sanath opening batting. Other factor to keep in mind is Sanath had Marvan to partner him who was a huge stabilizing force. Both of them were converted openers but both were top of the order recognized batsmen from school days. Still Sanath at times had to move down the order not only in tests but in ODIs as well when he was not performing.

  • Anjana on June 10, 2012, 13:42 GMT

    Spot on Kanishka! some time back, Sri Lanka badly needed quality fast bowling all-rounders. But now they have Angelo, Thisara and Kulasekara. Angelo is the batting all-rounder and the other two are fast bowling all-rounders. I'm not agree with the fact that they both bowl with the same pace. In fact, Thisara is bit quicker than Mathews. Thisara bowls 135-140kmph range whereas Angi bowls 125-130 range. However, they both are supreme fielders.

  • Dru on June 10, 2012, 13:31 GMT

    I would like to see SL invest some time with Perera in test cricket. His value in the limited over game is priceless as a bowler who can use the long handle in the lower order but I think he can reach a higher level by playing some test cricket.

  • Dhushan on June 10, 2012, 13:01 GMT

    I really hope that he performs on a consistent basis, preferably in all 3 areas as said in the article. That's the good thing about being an all rounder. If you miss out on 1 avenue, you've still got the other 2 to do well. Well done Thisara. Keep up the good work. Cheers

  • Kasun on June 10, 2012, 11:08 GMT

    He is a good allrounder for SL and it seems he is getting better and better day by day! He bowls well, plays big shots and get quick runs, also fields superbly... What more you want from an allrounder?

  • mohammad on June 10, 2012, 10:23 GMT

    Pakistan team very badly missing Abdur Razzaque. Only the selectors and captain are not missing him and paying the price. Iqbal Qasim, a hopeless selector.

  • Dummy4 on June 10, 2012, 8:54 GMT

    Tissara needs some variety in shot making. He only have 2 shots 2 hit sixes. Better if he can play the square cut and drive properly and nudeg da ball for singles. He muct turn his quick 20s into 40s and 50s.

  • Dummy4 on June 10, 2012, 8:43 GMT

    Pak should play sami in every game and why misbah changed combinations after only one win?? i dont understand his mindset and y younis and hafeez in the top order are not performing for so many games??

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