Sri Lanka’s hopes seemed to be all but faded at the end of day three when they were reduced to 83-3 in their chase of 304. That task was looking all the more improbable for the tourists once Odasha Fernando and Niroshan Dickwella fell within the space of three deliveries in the morning session of day four at Durban.
However, Perera came out swinging in what will go down as one of the best Test innings of all-time to keep Sri Lanka in the hunt.
The left-hander forged a 96-run stand for the sixth wicket along with Dhananjay de Silva to give Sri Lanka a glimmer of hope before Proteas spinner Keshav Maharaj’s three quick strikes reduced the visitors to 226-9.
With just last man Vishwa Fernando for company, Perera turned on the style as he went on the offensive at Durban. The 28-year-old registered his second Test century but the battle was still an uphill one for Sri Lanka which just one wicket to play with.
Perera though, shielded the tailender in a mighty effective manner while he continued to strike some lusty blows from his end. The Sri Lanka middle-order batsman took on South Africa’s pacers Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada, striking a total of five sixes before clinching a dramatic win with a boundary which also brought up his 150.
The unbroken 78-run stand between Perera and Fernando is the highest ever recorded for the 10th wicket in any Test win in history.
Earlier on day three, Sri Lanka had picked up five wickets for just eight runs to bundle out South Africa for 259 runs in their second innings.
Sri Lanka now lead the two-match series 1-0 with the second and final Test between the two sides set to get underway at Port Elizabeth on February 21.
South Africa: 235 and 259
Sri Lanka: 191 and 304-9
Kusal Perera: 153 not out (200)
Dhanajaya de Silva: 48 (79)
Embuldeniya was among the thick of things as the visitors picked up five wickets for just eight runs to close out South Africa’s second innings at 259 runs.
The hosts had started the day at 126-4 with their overall lead in the second innings standing at 170 and were shored up further with half-centuries from skipper Faf du Plessis and wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock.
The pair added 96-runs for the fifth wicket before de Kock was trapped on the pads by Embuldeniya.
The Proteas skipper them combined with Vernon Philander to add 61 runs for the sixth wicket before the latter became Embuldeniya’s fourth victim of the innings.
A change in the ball triggered a dramatic collapse for the hosts on a fast deteriorating surface with their final five wickets falling in a space of just a few overs. Du Plessis fell 10 runs short of a century to Vishwa Fernando who impressed with a four-wicket haul.
Having been set a daunting target of 304 to win in the final innings, Sri Lanka’s openers started strongly with Dimuth Karunaratne and Lahiru Thirimanne putting on a 42-run stand.
It was Kagiso Rabada who got South Africa the much-needed breakthrough by inducing an edge from Thirimanne before Philander ended Karunaratne’s vigil with a sharp inswinger.
The tourists were given another big setback towards the end of play on day three with Duanne Olivier dismissing Kusal Mendis for a duck.
With a crucial day four up ahead, Olivier has called for patience from South Africa’s bowlers in their bid to close out the game.
“It’s probably their game plan to play a few shots. I do think it gives us opportunities to take wickets,” the Proteas pacer was quoted as saying by AFP.
Emuldeniya, meanwhile, was delighted with his five-wicket haul on his first Test outing for Sri Lanka.
“I was very happy to contribute. My plan was just to bowl line and length,” he stated.
South Africa: 235 (first innings) and 259 (second innings)
Faf du Plessis: 90 (182)
Lasith Embuldeniya: 5-66 (26 overs)
Sri Lanka: 191 (first innings) and 83-3 (target 304)
Karachi Kings will barely have any time to recover from their opener against Multan Sultans on Friday as they get ready to take on Lahore Qalandars in the second match of Saturday’s double-header at Dubai in the Pakistan Super League (PSL).
The clash against Lahore will be the second for Karachi in as many days following their narrow seven-run win at the same venue.
The Kings had placed their hopes on the batting firepower provided by the in-form Babar Azam for the fourth edition of the PSL and the Pakistan stalwart did not disappoint with a fine 59-ball 77 against Multan.
Babar put on 157 runs for the opening wicket along with Englishman Liam Livingstone in what is now the highest stand for any wicket in PSL history.
In Livingstone, the Kings have got their hands on a potential gem with the Lancashire man showing his batting prowess with a whirlwind knock of 82 off just 43 deliveries with the help of six sixes and as many boundaries.
While Karachi will be buoyed by their perfect start, Lahore are still reeling from their five-wicket loss to Islamabad United in the PSL opener.
Despite openers Fakhar Zaman and Sohail Akhtar putting on 97 runs for the first wicket, the Qalandars lost the plot in the death overs to ultimately finish at 171-8.
The Qalandars were wasteful with the ball as well after having Islamabad United on the ropes but their bowlers were unable to handle the pressure in the death with Asif Ali and Faheem Ashraf guiding the defending champions home with four balls to spare.
One pleasing aspect from their loss to Islamabad will be Fakhar rediscovering his form with an explosive fifty after a poor tour of South Africa with Pakistan.
Lahore’s star purchase AB de Villiers showed glimpses of his outrageous talent on his PSL debut with a 17-ball 24 but much more will be expected from the South African going forward in the tournament.
With Karachi Kings getting less than 24 hours to recover for the clash, a few changes could be possible in the playing XI. Babar Azam went down with cramps multiple times in his innings against Multan and the Karachi opener could be a doubt for the clash.
For Lahore, Nepal leg-spin sensation Sandeep Lamichhane will once again be unavailable for the tie due to his Big Bash League commitments where he is due to turn out for the Melbourne Stars in the final on Sunday.
Karachi Kings: Liam Livingstone, Babar Azam, Colin Ingram, Sikander Raza, Ravi Bopara, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Imad Wasim (c), Sohail Khan, Mohammad Amir, Usman Shinwari, Umer Khan
Lahore Qalandars: Fakhar Zaman, Sohail Akhtar, AB de Villiers, Anton Devcich, Mohammad Hafeez (c), Brendon Taylor (wk), Carlos Brathwaite, Yasir Shah, Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf, Rahat Ali
Match starts at 20:00 UAE time