At 128/7 in their pursuit of 320, it seemed Sri Lanka was heading towards a massive defeat against Sri Lanka in the second ODI in Mount Maunganui. However, Thisara Perera had other ideas. In what can be termed as one of the best ODI knocks ever, Perera blasted his maiden century and his 140 off 74 balls almost got Sri Lanka within touching distance of the target but he could not get the visitors over the line as they lost by 21 runs to lose the second ODI and the series. Perera’s knock consisted of eight fours and a record 13 sixes and it shattered some milestones along the way.
Perera’s tally of 13 sixes is the most-ever in an ODI by a Sri Lanka batsman, breaking a 22-year record of 11 set by Sanath Jayasuriya in the ODI against Pakistan in Singapore in 1996. Overall, Perera is sixth in the all-time list of most sixes in an innings, with Rohit Sharma, AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle slamming 16 sixes. Shane Watson is next with 15 in an ODI against Bangladesh in 2011 followed by New Zealand’s Corey Anderson who hit 14 sixes against West Indies in 2014 in what-was then the fastest ODI hundred off 36 balls.
The left-hander got going with a couple of boundaries from Ish Sodhi and Tim Southee but it was in the 32nd over bowled by Southee that signaled Perera’s intentions. He pulled a short ball to the deep square leg fence for his first six and muscled a flat-batted pull past mid-off for a boundary. He proceeded to ruin Sodhi’s figures by blasting two more sixes, one over long-off and other over deep midwicket as the legspinner conceded 20 runs in his final over. With Perera reaching his fifty off 34 balls, Sri Lanka dreamt of pulling off a sensational heist.
The 75-run stand for the eighth wicket ended when Trent Boult dismissed Lasith Malinga (17) but it set the stage for the final onslaught. Perera launched Boult into the stands at long on and kept Sri Lanka in the hunt by upper-cutting Matt Henry to the deep backward point fence. The left-hander gave Sri Lanka even more reasons to dream by blasting two sixes off Boult and he reached his landmark off just 57 balls by flicking a full ball from Boult to the deep backward square leg fence.
With Lakshan Sandakan gone (6), it was all left to Perera and he did not disappoint as he launched two sixes off Jimmy Neesham. The tension mounted for New Zealand when he blasted four sixes in one over of Southee to get the target down to 26 off 24 balls. However, a great running catch from Boult ended the innings but it was sensational hitting from the man who had to wait 10 years for his first ton.
Perera’s knock of 140 is the third-highest score ever by a No.7 batsman in ODIs. Luke Ronchi of New Zealand hit 170 against Sri Lanka in 2015 in Dunedin while Australia’s Marcus Stoinis hit 146 against the Kiwis in Auckland in 2017. Perera is the second Sri Lankan batsman to hit a century at the No.7 position for Sri Lanka, the first being Hashan Tillakaratne’s 100 against West Indies in Sharjah in 1995.
The final ODI will be played on January 8 at the Saxton Oval in Nelson and New Zealand will be attempting to achieve a 3-0 whitewash.