Almanac Cricket – South Africa v Sri Lanka, First Test: Don’t tell Citrus Bob Test cricket is dead!

As is my wont at my age I take an afternoon nap. Fortunately, in retrospect, I slept for two hours.  This followed a gourmet’s delight for two days in the central Victorian towns of Kyneton and Trentham.


Fortunate in the fact that I could not sleep last night, I took in what turned out to be one of the most marvellous finishes to a Test Match I have ever seen.  South Africa v Sri Lanka in the first test of a two-test series.


I watched because I was interested to see if this Sri Lankan team would be offering more resistance that they did three weeks ago in Australia.


Well was I in for a magnificent late night’s viewing of a rear-guard action by one Sri Lankan player MDKJ (Kusal) Perera and a regular bunny if I ever saw one in MVT Fernando.


At 6/226 and then 9/226 it looked all over for the visitors with Perera on 86 and Fernando coming to the wicket.


With Rabada, Steyn, Philander, Olivier and Maharaj as the attack, spectators could be excused for leaving early.  The Tigers still had to make 78 to win.  Mission impossible?


Well Shaun Pollock on TV did not think so when he said, “this game is not over yet”. How prophetic.


What I salivated in was how the 28-year-old from Kalubowila, Kusal Perera farmed the strike for the remainder of the innings, hitting all bowlers over the fences for sixes and displaying utmost confidence (ala Steve Waugh) to his number 11 Fernando.


Fernando’s part can not be forgotten. He faced 27 balls, most of them he missed, scored a five (four overthrows), faced all the bowlers and never got out.  Going into the Test match he had a batting average of 1.5 yet Perera gave him the strike in 98% of the overs they faced.


Mind you many of the balls he missed shaved the stumps.


However it was one of the most masterly innings I have ever seen from a batsman to win a game as he went from 86 to 153 not out to win the game for his country.  He batted for 309 minutes, faced 200 balls and hit 12 fours and 5 sixes.  Most of his sixes came in the latter part of his innings with one six off Rabada, hooking him over square leg, a copy book shot if ever there was one.


Faf Du Plessis tried everything to no avail, even taking the new ball at virtually the death but Perera continued to dominate the bowlers while Fernando frustrated them.


I watched about 100 minutes of enthralling cricket, saw 4 wickets fall, 5 sixes hit, a century beyond heroic proportions and a Bill Johnston type innings from a number 11.


Today I will probably watch a hit and giggle that I won’t be able to recall the score tomorrow.


I certainly will recall my late-night matinee however for as long as I live.


What a matinee I had!  Long live the greatest game of all.


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About Bob Utber

At 80 years of age Citrus Bob is doing what he wanted to do as a 14 year-old living on the farm at Lang Lang. Talking, writing, watching sport. Now into his third book on sports history he lives in Mildura with his very considerate wife (Jenny ) and a groodle named "Chloe On Flinders". How good is that.


  1. Ken Richards says

    Truer words never spoken Bob. The Test Match remains the best match.

  2. They keep writing off Test cricket. But it ain’t dead yet!

    What an innings for the ages from Perera!

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    Incredible, brilliant win.
    Hopefully the start of a resurgance in Sri Lankan cricket fortunes.

  4. Michael Viljoen says

    You’ve chosen the words “beyond heroic”.
    Sri Lanka’s Kusal Perera, 153 unbeaten.
    Others have said: ‘Epic’, ‘unbelievable’, ‘mind-boggling’. Those who saw it say no adjective will do justice to his achievement.

    Before watching the Big Bash 08 Final, you refer to it as “a hit and giggle that I won’t be able to recall the score tomorrow.”
    However, it was also a tremendous game, but for different reasons. Well done, the Renegades. They kept the faith all season, and never gave up. Two days in a row, on opposite sides of the world, cricket, in its varying forms, showed us why we are continually mesmerised by this game.

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