- Kusal Perera tried his best to keep Sri Lanka afloat after they won the toss and batted first.
- His quick-fire 60 kept his country in the hunt, but wickets tumbled after he fell.
- Of the 71 runs Sri Lanka scored when Perera was batting, 60 were made by the left-hander.
On a tough first day at the Wanderers where Sri Lanka’s batsmen froze in the face of ferocious pace from Anrich Nortje and miserly metronomy of the highest order from Wiaan Mulder, Kusal Perera did what he does best: Take down the bowling before it takes you down.
While he was a dominant (yet short) figure at the crease, the punchy opener took the attack to the Proteas and while he was there, Sri Lanka could at least hope of breaching the 200-mark.
That’s something they’ve yet to do at the Wanderers in five innings.
When he fell for a boisterous 67-ball 60 with 11 fours, the southpaw had pushed his country to the relative respectability of 71/2.
That’s where the fun and games ended for the visitors as the double act of Mulder and Nortje picked apart the Sri Lankan batting unit at will.
The capitulation of the Sri Lankan batting unit in the first innings was a major point of concern for Perera, even though they are without their two key middle-order batsmen in Dhananjaya de Silva and Dinesh Chandimal.
While Perera was quick out of the blocks, he also said patience and application was missing on a surface that demanded both virtues from the batsmen.
"It’s difficult to explain, but in these conditions, the pace and bounce was always there," Perera said.
"You could see with all the dismissals behind the wicket. You have to get used to the pace and the bounce, which is why I thought the batsmen couldn’t make any runs."
It would be tough to call Perera a poor man’s Sanath Jayasuriya, but in a batting group that’s battling to come to terms with the now distant retirements of Kumar Sangakarra and Mahela Jayawardene, his belligerent approach became important for them.
If he scores quickly, in the same manner David Warner does for Australia, it releases the pressure on the middle-order.
He doesn’t always come off, but when he does, like he did at Kingsmead in 2019 in that unforgettable one-wicket win, he’s more than a handful.
In the meantime, he has to trust his plans and score as many runs as possible before he gets out.
"I had a plan, but I needed to do what I could. On this particular pitch, I could get out at any time because the bounce was there. I needed to score runs and execute my plans," he said.
"I like pace and bounce. These conditions are here and the South African bowlers are also fast. It suits my batting style and I think that’s why I’m scoring runs."