Many things have been up in the air during the build-up to England’s first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle tomorrow but a debut for Rory Burns is not one of them.
With Alastair Cook gone, Jonny Bairstow injured and monsoon season in full effect, England’s preparations on the tour have been far from settled as already brief warm-up matches were curtailed further.
The result of the uncertainty over the weather is that captain Joe Root abstained from naming his team yesterday, preferring to keep his cards close to his chest.
“We’ve got a very balanced squad with plenty of different options,” Root said. “Whichever XI we go with we’re going to be blessed with that. From that point of view I feel we’ll be very well prepared for whatever surface is thrown at us.”
Burns, however, is one of few pencilled in regardless of the conditions and will finally fulfil the potential which has seen him score over 1,000 first-class runs in each of the last five seasons for Surrey.
It’s been a long time coming, with the Surrey captain seeing the likes of Adam Lyth, Alex Hales, Ben Duckett, Haseeb Hameed, Mark Stoneman and his opening partner Keaton Jennings given a chance ahead of him to bat alongside Cook at the top of the order.
But with prominent voices like Surrey director of cricket Alec Stewart and Sri Lankan great Kumar Sangakkara singing his praises, Burns has continued to grind out runs to reach this point. With Cook retiring and the reserves running dry the left-hander has now got his chance.
“I always thought I’d eventually get there and put my name in the hat enough to do it,” he said this week. “I never lost belief. I just kept trying to punch out my numbers and knew that at some stage I’d get over the line.”
Burns has been prolific in the County Championship, scoring 1,359 runs at an average of 64.71 last season, despite the difficulties of facing the new ball. His sheer weight of runs, coupled with Surrey’s Division One title success, was eye-catching enough, but the fashion in which he’s scored them is even more so.
The 28-year-old has a unique technique. He pushes his backside out and glances to the legside as the bowler runs in before a pronounced back-lift carries his momentum into the ball. It’s unconventional, but has proven very effective.
Like most left-handers he is strong off his pads, but as his benefactors have repeatedly suggested Burns possesses all the attributes which should make him a success in Test cricket.
He has a strong, positive defence, scores all around the wicket and is equally comfortable facing pace or spin – a factor which is sure play a significant part in Sri Lanka, if the rain stays away long enough.
For all his hard work and talent the main attribute Burns has been forced to show in the last few years is patience. That is a trait perfectly suited to monsoon season in Sri Lanka.