Kusal Perera wants Sri Lanka batters to provide momentum in T20Is
After disappointing displays in the ODIs, Sri Lanka finally found form in first T20I in Auckland
Sri Lanka's top order hasn't had the best time on tour so far, but in Auckland on Sunday, they finally clicked into gear. Pathum Nissanka may have fallen first-ball, but Kusal Mendis scored 25 in just nine balls, Dhananjaya de Silva 15 in 10, and then Charith Asalanka and Kusal Perera raced at nearly 10-an-over during a century-plus stand.
It helped Sri Lanka tie the game and then score their first win of the tour in the Super Over. For Perera, playing his first competitive match for some 15 months, the intent shown by all those batters should be the blueprint going forward for success in the format.
"It's hard to play a T20 without momentum, and to win in T20 cricket you need a batter to provide that momentum," Perera said after the game.
"I went ahead with a positive mindset, I wasn't thinking about how long I had been out. Likewise, all the other batters also went out with a positive mindset, and that's how we managed to capitalise on the conditions."
As for his own game, while he wasn't completely at his destructive best, Perera was hopeful that with more consistent game time a more familar "match rhythm" would return.
"Of course being out there in the middle and playing, I'm very happy with my performance. More than that I'm happy that the team won. That said I know there's room for improvement and that will only come as I improve my match rhythm."
Now 32, Perera is one of the seniors in the squad, and his 45-ball 53 where he batted through the innings highlighted his evolving role in the side. Whereas once he was the player the side looked to for impetus, now he's seemingly content to bat deep and allow the likes of Mendis and Asalanka to take on the bowling. In this game, Asalanka scored 67 off 41 in their 103-run partnership.
"A lot of the batters showed good initiative, but batting with him [Asalanka] was easy as he took the strike and took on the bowling. That took the pressure off me, and what I tried to do from that point was turn over the strike and bat deep. When you have an innings like that [of Asalanka's], more often than not you're going to be nearing 200."
The action now moves to Dunedin and Queenstown thereafter, where the weather is expected to be much colder. Perera believes overseas tours such as these, in unfamiliar situations and conditions, will provide invaluable experience to younger members of the squad.
"We know that the next venue is going to have different conditions, we just need to figure out how to be as competitive as we were today.
"For me, experience means knowing how to handle certain situations. There are a lot of young players in the squad, and what I've told them is you have start learning now how to handle uncomfortable situations. Bowlers aren't going to bowl how you like, they're going to analyse you and be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. We need to be smart in those situations."