Thisara Perera has thanked the coaching staff for giving him greater batting responsibility by pushing him up at No.7 after he almost pulled off a heist for Sri Lanka in the second ODI against New Zealand at Mount Maunganui.
Perera scored a jaw-dropping 74-ball 140 but Sri Lanka fell 22 runs short of New Zealand’s 320-run target. His innings was studded with 8 boundaries and 13 sixes. The southpaw was the last man to be dismissed, courtesy a brilliant diving catch by Trent Boult off Matt Henry as Sri Lanka were bundled out for 298.
“I was trying for a victory rather than avenging the sixes from before,” Perera, who was adjudged Player of the Match said in the post-match presentation. “I am very proud of my effort as this is my first century and I had to take the responsibility throughout the innings. I asked the tailenders to please hang in there with me.
“Last eight years I've been batting at No. 8. Thanks to the coaching staff for pushing me up to No. 7. I should give them a present. I was not thinking anything. I had to take the responsibilty throughout. I told the Nuwan and Sandakan to just play five or six balls. I should thank Chandika Hathurusingha (head coach) and Thilan Samraweera (batting coach) - they were throwing throwing throwing to me. Credit goes to these two.”
Black Caps skipper Kane Williamson admitted that he was feeling nervous after Perera went berserk to put the game in the balance.
“85 percent of the game was clinical from us,” he said. “Then, Thisara came out and played out of his skin and kept putting us under pressure. But it feels nice that we held onto our nerves and came out with a win. It is about guys going out there and performing a role for us.”
Williamson also hailed all-rounder Jimmy Neesham, who made yet another vital contribution with a 37-ball 64. It was Neesham’s second game since returning from injury. He had also scored 47 not out in just 13 balls in the ODI series opener at the same venue.
“If we did hold our catches, we'd have reflected on it differently,” he said. “On top of that, Thisara kept putting us under pressure. We pride ourselves on our fielding and it's something we need to move on quickly from before Nelson. It's about guys going out and performing their roles. Needs to become that sort of a habit where we go out and keep the game moving forward as much as we can.
“Jimmy (Neesham) has been outstanding for us. His knocks have been vital in both the games.”
Sri Lanka captain Lasith Malinga rued the lack of partnerships in the middle order. The visitors were reduced to 128 for 7 before Perera’s mayhem brought them back in the contest.
“I have always felt Thisara Perera is a match-winner and I’m very happy for him for the effort he made today,” he said. “But we needed middle-order partnerships which we missed. We can't improve our skills overnight but mentally we need to do better.”