Angelo Perera looking to make international break count

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In a fortnight’s time, Angelo Perera will turn 29. Since first breaking into the senior side six years ago, Perera has featured in four ODIs and two T-20 Internationals so far without making a big impact as a highest score of seven runs after six outings suggests.

Reporting from South Africa

But this season has been big for him. He rewrote the record books having smashed twin double hundreds in a First Class match. This has happened in First Class cricket only one other time and that too before World War II.

Kent’s Arthur Fagg smashed 244 and 202 in the same game against Essex in Colchester in 1938.  Fagg now is in the company of Perera who smashed 201 off 203 deliveries in the first innings and followed that up by hitting 238 off 268 balls in the second essay two weeks ago, just in time before the selections were made for the tour of South Africa.

You would not want to read too much into stats about First Class cricket in Sri Lanka as players are scoring double hundreds faster than the accomplices of Madush falling into the hands of STF. The Special Task Force’s job at least is challenging as Madush’s co-conspirators are carrying lethal weapons with them. The bowling our batsmen face in domestic cricket is by no means deadly. To put it precisely it is toothless.

Perera, however, recorded his twin double hundreds against SSC and had faced the likes of Dammika Prasad and Sachithra Senanayake, both players who have featured in Test cricket.

This has been his maiden call up to the Test side and there’s an opening to make his debut as well with both Dinesh Chandimal and Roshen Silva, who played in Australia, being axed from the South Africa tour. Angelo is expected to play, possibly batting at number five, in the first Test in Durban starting on Wednesday.

“It feels good indeed to be called up to the Test squad. As a player that is what you have been working for over the last so many years and it certainly feels good.  I have played a lot of ‘A’ team cricket with these lads and am looking forward to a good and competitive series here in South Africa,” he said speaking to journalists in Durban.

Perera’s and Lasith Embuldeniya’s departure to South Africa was delayed as they were last minute additions to the squad. But the South African High Commission in Colombo was kind enough to grant the visas in double quick time although generally it takes 14 working days to process the visa. “I am here for the last two days and it feels good. I have been playing lots of domestic cricket and I am looking forward to the challenge,” he added.

Perera knows that his effort in domestic cricket earned him a place in the Test squad and a decent showing here would cement his place in the side as it did for Dinesh Chandimal eight years ago. Chandimal made his debut in Durban in 2011 and scored twin half-centuries and held onto his place. “That was my best performance for sure. You can’t be planning on those types of things to be honest. I played as they came and very glad to achieve the rare feat,” he said.

Despite the absence of Lungi Ngidi, the Proteas have a potent seam bowling attack. Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn will share the new ball while Vernon Philander will come on as first change. It is unlikely that the hosts will opt for an all seam attack as the Durban wicket helps spin. However, it will be tough to leave out Duanne Olivier, who was their best bowler in the series against Pakistan, finishing with 24 wickets in three games.

“I look forward to the challenge of facing South Africa’s fast bowlers.  Playing against them will be a good challenge and we need to bring our best game. They are a good outfit and they have finished a good series against Pakistan. This will be a good challenge for us.”

Knowing a bit about the country and conditions will certainly help. “I was in South Africa in 2013 with the ‘A’ team and played in Durban as well. I was quite young then and felt that I could have done better. The conditions were quite different from what we encountered at home and it was a good learning experience.”

The Sri Lankans will be happy that they will be playing in the Eastern Cape in places like Durban and Port Elizabeth and not in the Western Cape or in the Highlands where venues like Cape Town, Johannesburg and Centurion offer plenty of assistance to fast bowlers.

“It has been a tough few months for the team and I am sure we will bounce back. We will assess things after the series is over but I am pretty sure that all the boys are looking forward for the challenge.”

Perera has played under Dimuth Karunaratne previously and in fact the last time he came to South Africa with the ‘A’ team, Karunaratne was the skipper. “He is very easy going and cool guy and I have played under him on so many occasions. He was the captain when I came here with the ‘A’ team and he gives you a chance to do what you want to do and backs his players.”

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