Perera hailed as national hero

COLOMBO — Kusal Perera became a national hero in Sri Lanka Sunday after scoring an unbeaten 153 to guide his country to a sensational first Test victory in South Africa.

The country’s cricket legends and politicians lauded Perera, who has become a linchpin for the ailing national side since fighting off doping charges in 2016.

Former skipper Kumar Sangakkara, who had staunchly defended Perera when he was suspended in December 2015, called the performance at Kingsmead in Durban on Saturday “unreal”.

“What an amazing win,” Sangakkara said on Twitter. “One of the best if not THE best overseas win by (Sri Lanka). Kusal Janith Perera was unreal.”

Sangakkara stood by Perera when he was wrongfully accused of doping in 2015. The International Cricket Council lifted the suspension in 2016 and apologized for the botched testing.

Another former Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardena said on Twitter: “What a beauty! One of the best innings under pressure.”

Jayawardena said Perera, who put on a last wicket partnership of 78 had shown “intelligence and mental strength”.

Perera scored 67 in an unbroken last-wicket stand with Vishwa Fernando which gave his underdog team a sensational victory.

Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also took to Twitter to hail the win.

“Congratulations to our cricket team on snatching a victory from the jaws of defeat,” Sirisena said. “Kusal Janith Perera makes mother Sri Lanka very proud today! Keep fighting!

“Great spirit by @kusaljperera and all the youngsters #SAvSL,” added Wickremesinghe while thanking the national side which has been the butt of jokes due to poor recent results.

“U beauty”, said Sports Minister Harin Fernando on Twitter.

Sri Lanka won the World Cup in 1996 and since has been plagued by management scandals, allegations of corruption and player squabbling.

It was swept 3-0 in a home Test series against England last year and was then beaten in Australia and New Zealand.

Campbell gets first call-up

John Campbell, Carlos Brathwaite and Sheldon Cottrell have been called up to the West Indies squad for next week’s first two One-Day Internationals against England.

The changes to the 14-man squad were made due to injuries to opening batsman Evin Lewis, as well as allrounders Keemo Paul and Rovman Powell.

It is Campbell’s first call-up for limited over cricket. The 25-year-old made his Test debut in the just-completed series against England, which West Indies won 2-1.

The first two matches of the four-match ODI series will be played at Kensington Oval in Barbados Wednesday and Friday. — AFP