Thisara Perera safeguards No. 7 position: A rare happening in Cricket

In ODIs, Thisara Perera now has the highest number of runs while chasing as a No.7 since the last World Cup. Picture Courtesy: Wikimedia commons

Sri Lanka were in a shambles by the time they were halfway down that chase.

Not run wise.

They had exhausted 25 overs and hardly touched the run rate of five. The required run-rate had increased from 4.84 to 7.92 by then. Nobody in the upper order except Danushka Gunathalika could reach to a half-century. Even he took the backfoot as his partners kept playing against the cause. Sri Lanka’s “hero” from the first ODI, Kusal Perera kept staggering until he was dismissed for just 4 runs of 23 deliveries. A ‘0’ in the unit’s place instead of the ten’s place would’ve certainly been more meaningful in a chase of 320 runs.

The third, fourth and fifth wicket fell in quick succession.

Then came Thisara Perera who had a disappointing run with the ball having conceded 69 runs in 7 overs without a scalp. Sri Lanka had zero sixes at the point and New Zealand batsmen had amassed 7 of them. In the next 20 overs Sri Lanka as many as 13 sixes, all into Thisara Perera’s account.

Perera scored piles of runs, sadly none of his partners could reciprocate. Even sadder is the fact that Perera had to take those singles that came in his way. And the partners kept exhausting more deliveries. It was rather puzzling how he staged a comeback for Sri Lanka despite the other batsmen resisting every opportunity of a run. New Zealand pacers tamed the batsmen as they kept squeezing deliveries and converting them into dots. But Mr. NLTC, who has 28.3% of his runs scored in sixes in chases as compared to 17.6% in first innings, had other plans. He punished every single bowler with his power hitting except for Matt Henry, who got him out and ended Sri Lanka’s late but miraculous chase.

He was finally dismissed on 140 off 74. The scare was almost as intense as the one Stoinis instilled almost two years backIn both cases, the No.7 were honoured with the Man of the match award. There are not many iconic innings played by the No. 7 in ODIs anyway.  

Unsuccessful chases 

No offense to the batsmen assigned to the position, but if they aren’t all-rounders or wicketkeepers the role doesn’t have much to offer. Now, what Perera or Stoinis have produced is rare. To back it up with data, the number of centuries scored by a No.7 while chasing in a ‘lost cause’ (7) is more than in the case of successful chases (2). Not that the scores below hundred are of less importance. In fact, Perera’s unbeaten 39 in a low-scoring match helped Sri Lanka pull off a chase against Zimbabwe last year. But a century is a milestone, a preferred way to recognize a player or a batting position. The simple conclusion is, if the chase starts off with the ideal momentum it’s highly probable that the No.7 won’t even get to bat. But if you’re playing for Sri Lanka, who have had a terrible run in ODIs since the last World Cup, chances are everyone gets to bat in the 2nd innings. Only Jason Holder (17) and Moeen Ali (17) have played more innings than Perera (12) while chasing. In Ali’s case though, he only got to bat 17 times in the 2nd innings out of 30 matches.  

Highest individual score by a No.7 in unsuccessful chases: 

Player  Runs  4s  6s  SR  Inns  vs  Venue  Date 
Marcus Stoinis (AUS)  146*  9  11  124.78  2  NZ  Auckland  30/01/17
Thisara Perera (SL)  140  13  189.18  NZ  Mount Maunganui  05/01/19 
Shaun Pollock (SA)  130  19  1  118.18  2  Asia XI  Bengaluru  06/06/07 
Jos Buttler (ENG)  121  11  4  163.51  2  SL  Lord’s  31/05/14 
James Faulkner (AUS)  116  11  6  158.9  2  IND  Bengaluru  02/11/13 
Yusuf Pathan (IND)  105  8  8  150  2  SA  Centurion  23/01/11 
Hashan Tillakaratne (SL)  100  4  1  94.33  2  WI  Sharjah  16/10/95 


What if I tell you that Thisara Perera has the highest number of runs while chasing as a No.7 since the last World Cup? In ODI Cricket’s biggest chases, what role has the No.7 played? Justin Kemp in 2006, Mohammad Nawaz in 2016 or Tim Paine in 2018. This is after all a position warmed up by more Farhaan Behardiens than Jos Buttlers. Here James Faulkners establish their one series wonders and Thisara Pereras just love hitting their sixes, when they can.

But milestones?

(An engineering graduate Sritama Panda tends to spend a major part of the day talking, watching and writing about cricket. She Tweets here and can be contacted via Facebook.) Thisara Perera