'I wasn't afraid' – Vishwa Fernando on standing up to South Africa's attack

Having taken 8 for 133 and batted out 27 deliveries in an epic last-wicket stand, Vishwa Fernando‘s contribution to Sri Lanka’s victory was second only to that of Kusal Perera. The Kingsmead Test having only been his fourth, Vishwa looks back on his sudden call-up to the Test side, his bowling, as well as that record-breaking stand.

You were in Sri Lanka playing domestic cricket, and there were five seamers with the Sri Lanka squad. They suddenly started getting injured and you got a call-up to Australia. Was it unexpected?

I didn’t think I’d have a comeback into the national team this quickly, to be honest. I had had a lot of injuries, and I was playing the domestic season. I was training hard. I only came for the second Test in Australia, and I wasn’t thinking of any further tours. I was able to get a few wickets there. So, I’m happy to even be here in South Africa.

You’d been bowling an average of less than six overs an innings in domestic first-class this season. Were you worried you’d pick up an injury with the Test workload in Australia?

I was a bit nervous before the game, just because I hadn’t bowled much. But then when the match started, that fear disappeared. All I was thinking was: how do I get the ball off the captain and into my hands? There are reasons why fast bowlers don’t get to bowl much in Sri Lankan first-class cricket, but on Australian pitches, I knew I’d have to bowl a lot.

What did you learn from that Test that helped you in South Africa?

Playing a Test for the first time in one-and-a-half years gave me a lot of confidence. I got a couple of wickets with the new ball as well. So, I was feeling good. But it was also important to realise how to bowl after 15-20 overs have gone. I didn’t do well with the older ball there, so that was the biggest leasson. Once the shine goes, you’ve got to bowl really tight to keep Test batsmen quiet. Our line and length wasn’t great in Australia.

You got four wickets in the first innings at Kingsmead. What did you do right?

I’d known that South Africa pitches helped quicks. I hadn’t come here even on a Sri Lanka A tour, but we did watch videos of previous Durban Tests. I had belief that I could do something with the new ball. In the first over itself, I knew that it was helping me out. They had some of the best batsmen in the world in their top order, so it’s a big thing that I was able to get them out. I got the wicket of Dean Elgar in the first over itself, and I think that confidence carried me right through the Test. Then Hashim Amla should have been out in the same over, but the umpires didn’t allow our review..

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