August 3, 2019
Rory Burns tasted the sweet success of a maiden Test century against Australia after an evening with members of England’s 2005 Ashes-winning team that left him feeling ready to run through a brick wall.
Batting through the second day of the first Test for an unbeaten 125 that leaves England only 17 runs behind with six wickets in hand, Burns displayed all the obdurate qualities that many feared would be lost to England’s top order when his fellow left-hander Alastair Cook retired at the end of last summer.
But despite a low-key start as the direct replacement for England’s record run-scorer – he averaged 22 from seven caps and had made 12 runs across two innings against Ireland – a session with his old juniors coach, Neil Stewart, and an evening with such as Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell proved inspirational.
Burns, who left the field to a standing ovation and handshakes from the Australians, said: “To be an Ashes cricketer in the first place is a wonderful thing. We connected with some past players, some of the 2005 winners the night before the Test and I was literally ready to run through a brick wall and get right in amongst it.
“The night before I probably played my first ball a few times and probably celebrated a hundred a few times. To get over the line today is a wonderful feeling.”
What has so far stuck out over the course of 402 minutes at the crease is Burns’ ability to reset between deliveries, not least while spending nearly an hour in the 90s – a period when England lost Joe Denly and Jos Buttler at the other end.
The 28-year-old thanked Edgbaston’s rowdy Hollies Stand for keeping him going during that time, with the crowd singing his name to the tune of Cook’s old song before a sprinted single off Nathan Lyon sealed his three figures for the first time in Test cricket.
Burns added: “My general thought when I was on 99 and Lyon started bowling handy stuff was trying to talk myself out of sweeping him. I was just trying to stay level and almost wait for the ball that was in my area just to tickle somewhere. To get over the line there with a quick dash, that will be a pretty special memory.”
Australia were left to regret their failure to review an lbw shout from Lyon when Burns was on 21 – the ball was shown to be hitting leg stump – something Steve Waugh, who is acting as a mentor on this tour, accepted after the close. Burns will doubtless appreciate the former Australia captain’s assessment of his batting, not least when saying some of the tourists should take note.
Waugh said: “His concentration was excellent. It’s not about how good you look, it’s how many runs you get. It was a good innings for some of our players to look at and learn.
“I know myself, when you’re playing on tough Test match wickets and someone scores runs in the opposition, it would be smart to analyse how they went about it. You’ve got to take something from that and put it into your own game.”