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Feature

All-round match-winner - six of Thisara Perera's best in Sri Lanka colours

He could change games in a flash - here are six times when Thisara Perara did just that

Sreshth Shah
Sreshth Shah
03-May-2021
Thisara Perera raises his bat to acknowledge the applause for his first ODI century, New Zealand v Sri Lanka, 2nd ODI, Mount Maunganui

The 140 he hit in an ODI in Mount Maunganui remains Perera's only international century  •  AFP

Thisara Perera, who retired from international cricket on Monday, was the kind of allrounder whose bowling often came good when his batting did too, and vice versa. Here are six of his best performances for Sri Lanka over the years.
24* off 14 and 6 for 44 (ODI vs Pakistan in Pallekele, 2012)
The second ODI of the series began with Perera getting a promotion after Mahela Jayawardene was out in the 46th over. He started proceedings by smashing Sohail Tanvir, Saeed Ajmal and Umar Gul for two fours and two sixes, and finished with an unbeaten 24 in 14 balls to lift Sri Lanka to 280. But that was just the appetiser.
With the first ball of his first spell, Perera broke a 48-run partnership between the Pakistan openers by diving forward and taking a stunning return catch to remove Mohammad Hafeez. Six overs later, he induced an edge off Younis Khan's attempted drive. He struck again in the first ball of his next spell, trapping Misbah-ul-Haq lbw, and got lucky as Umar Akmal was adjudged caught behind despite no nick. It got better when he got a wicket off the first ball of his third spell to send Tanvir back, and finished it off with Gul's wicket, out lbw. The 6 for 44 remains his best ODI bowling figures. And Tillakaratne Dilshan's unbeaten 119 from the top of the order ended up as a mere footnote on the scorecard.
65 off 36 and 3 for 19 (ODI vs Pakistan in Hambantota, 2014)
Perera walked in at 194 for 6 in 38 overs, and by the time he was done, Sri Lanka had reached 310. Wahab Riaz and Junaid Khan faced the early onslaught before he hammered two fours and a six off Mohammad Irfan in the space of three balls. He reached his 50 in 30 balls and then deposited two more sixes in the final overs, before being run-out off the penultimate ball of the innings trying to get back on strike.
Then with the ball, with Pakistan well in the contest, he broke their back by taking wickets with three similar deliveries - all full and wide. The first to go was the set Shahid Afridi, caught at the cover boundary. Riaz was then caught at third man. And finally, Fawad Alam slashed one to cover. He was on a hat-trick, but could not pull it off. Nonetheless, his 3 for 19 in three overs helped Sri Lanka level the series 1-1.
140 off 74 (ODI vs New Zealand in Mount Maunganui, 2019)
Another second match of a series... This time, his bowling was forgettable, as he went at nearly ten in his seven-over spell, but redemption was around the corner when he picked up the bat.
Chasing 320, Sri Lanka were facing the prospect of an embarrassing defeat at 121 for 5 when Perera got to the middle. Soon after, Sri Lanka were 128 for 7. With nothing to lose, Perera swung hard, hitting four fours in the first three overs after he got in. He then clubbed Tim Southee for a four and a six in one over, and in the next over struck two sixes and a four off Ish Sodhi to reach his half-century in 28 balls.
Matt Henry and Trent Boult bore the brunt of Perera's wrath - the small boundaries didn't help - as he swiftly raced to a hundred in 57 balls, the third-fastest for Sri Lanka. That onslaught had brought the equation down to 69 off eight overs but wickets at the other end meant he only had the No. 11 for company. With the need to farm the strike, he smashed two sixes in a James Neesham over, and then clattered four sixes in an over off Southee to reduce the required run-rate to 6.50. But with 21 needed off 22 balls, the fairy tale was over as a well-struck shot was taken at long-on. It remains one of the best ODI innings in a losing cause. And also Perera's only international century.
2 for 34 and 69* off 44 (ODI vs South Africa in Kimberley, 2012)
It was the 39th over of South Africa's innings, and they were at 242 for 3 with AB de Villiers in his 90s and JP Duminy well set too. The prospect of a score around 350 was very real but Perera put the brakes on the innings with two crucial wickets. First was Duminy, as he poked an edge to the wicketkeeper. Perera then bowled an audacious slower ball to de Villiers, who was on 96 in 75 balls. The batter was totally deceived and lost his stumps. It ensured that South Africa finished on 299, having lost momentum after those two strikes.
Perera then saw off a tricky chase after Sri Lanka were 194 for 4. He got off the blocks by hitting Robin Peterson for six and four, before swatting Lonwabo Tsotsobe over midwicket. When Peterson returned, Perera swatted him for consecutive sixes to reach his half-century in 30 balls. With two needed to win, he clobbered Duminy for a six to seal the match in what his was first outing of the series, after he had been left out for the first three. Four sentences from the post-match presentation summed up Perera's performance: "This is my first match in the series. I think I've done well. This is my normal batting. I like left-arm spinners."
35* off 15 and 1 for 25 (T20I vs Australia in Melbourne, 2013)
MCG. Sri Lanka are 1-0 up in the two-match T20I series. But at 102 for 4 in the 16th over, things aren't going well. Jayawardene's hit a fifty, but he hasn't had much support.
But it all changes when Perera comes in at No. 6. Xavier Doherty is smashed straight back for four. James Faulkner is deposited over cow corner. Mitchell Starc is drilled past mid-off. And just to show he is not all brute power, Perera then ramps Faulkner for four. Then, penultimate ball of the innings, Perera hits a top-edged six, and ends unbeaten on 35 with a strike rate of 233.33.
Australia have a target of 162. Rain reduces the chase to a 15-over affair, and the target is revised to 122. George Bailey and Shaun Marsh are in their 40s as we get to the final over of the match. Australia need 18, and Perera has the ball. He bowls a low full-toss to Bailey, and the batter finds deep midwicket. That pops all Australian hopes, but Perera falters with a no-ball and then concedes two fours to make it four off the last ball. But with Glenn Maxwell on strike, he goes for a wide yorker, and it's a legal delivery! Australia scamper across for a bye, and Sri Lanka win the match by two runs and clinch the series 2-0.
49 off 20 and 1 for 24 (v England in London, 2014)
This was Sri Lanka's only T20I against England on that tour. Batting first, they were 122 for 5 when Perera walked in. Chris Woakes came on for the 15th over, and Perera hammered him for six and four to race to 14 in five. Harry Gurney was then smacked for two fours in the 18th as he moved to 26 in 12. But the blockbuster over was the 19th from Chris Jordan. After a wide yorker had Perera making no contact, he smashed the other five balls, going 4, 4, 6, 4, 4.
He was on 49 with one ball left in the innings, but a straight drive off Gurney clattered off the stumps and as Perera tried to sneak in a single, Gurney pulled out the stumps to run him out. It would have been the fastest T20I half-century by a Sri Lankan.
But Sri Lanka finished on 183. And Perera later chipped in with Eoin Morgan's wicket as Sri Lanka sealed the win.
With inputs from Andrew Fidel Fernando

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx