Kusal Perera managed to keep most of the strike and scored 67 runs during a record 78-run partnership [the highest last-wicket stand in a successful chase] with Vishwa Fernando to seal a thrilling one-wicket victory. @ Twitter/Sri Lanka Cricket

Sri Lanka’s national hero Kusal Perera has come under immense praise from Dimuth Karunaratne following his first Test as Sri Lanka captain. Perera’s unbeaten 153-run knock that helped the tourists grab a historic victory in opening Test against South Africa in Kingsmead, Durban will go down as one of the greatest knocks for the underdog nation. (ALSO READ: 20 years after Brian Lara’s epic 153* in one-wicket win, Kusal Perera hits 153* in one-wicket win)

The left-handed batsman managed to keep most of the strike and scored 67 runs during a record 78-run partnership [the highest last-wicket stand in a successful chase] with Vishwa Fernando to seal a thrilling one-wicket victory.

Sri Lanka entered Proteas shores on the back of a dismal record. They were blanked in the two-Test series against Australia and had not won a single match, in any format, since late October.

“I said in the beginning of the match that we needed to compete every session and every hour,” Karunaratne was quoted as saying by ESPNCricinfo on Sunday. (ALSO READ: ‘Just doing my job’, says ‘superman’ Kusal Perera after epic Sri Lanka win)

“We weren’t so concerned about winning or losing, but we wanted to compete with them. In Australia, we never even had a chance to win. We didn’t compete. Here, we had a good first day, then we struggled to bat so well in the first session of the second day.

“It’s not easy to win a game in South Africa. We’re a young side, and don’t have much experience. Only a few of us have travelled and played here before. But we kept coming back. We were in the game. On the last day we also had a good partnership between Kusal Perera and Dhananjaya, so we had faith. The bowlers did a really good job to stay there and support Kusal as well.”

“We had belief that Kusal could do it, but the other thing was we needed someone to support him,” Karunaratne said.

“When (No. 10) Kasun Rajitha got out, we knew we needed a few shots from Kusal. We never thought that we had the game in hand. But the dressing room thought that Kusal could do it, and we were excited when Vishwa was batting. I think Vishwa did a really good job. There were a lot of nerves.” (ALSO READ: ICC Test rankings: Sri Lanka’s hero Kusal Perera advances 58 places, Pat Cummins tops bowlers’ list)

With a lot of action going on off the field – specially with the sacking of the coaching staff and captain, the thrilling win comes as a good relief for Sri Lanka. A famous win, Karunaratne hoped, will loosen up everyone.

“The main thing is we need to relax. The boys need to enjoy themselves. When that happens, when you go out to the middle, you can perform well. For me, when I enjoy life, I have a clear mind when I go to bat. That’s what I told my teammates as well. The next match is on the 21st. We will practice and work hard, but at the same time we will enjoy and celebrate this win,” he said.