Burns hopes to set Gabba alight
Outsiders must wonder what would possess a young batsman like Joe Burns to pursue his career at the Gabba. Despite being a batsman's paradise in Test cricket, state sides are often greeted by pitches so green as to be almost indistinguishable from the rest of the square. Seamers thrive in the conditions and not since Stuart Law ten summers ago has a Queensland batsman scored 1000 runs in a Sheffield Shield season.
But there must be something there for the batsmen. Peter Forrest moved from New South Wales to Queensland this season and promptly posted three Shield hundreds and earned a national call-up. And Burns has tallied 745 runs at 43.82 this summer in his first full season of state cricket, and now has a first-class average nudging 50. He scored a century in his last innings at the Gabba.
Burns and his Queensland colleagues will enter the Shield final against Tasmania on Friday knowing that their home-ground advantage is significant, despite their opponents also being used to trying conditions, at Bellerive Oval. The Bulls set out to make the Gabba a fortress this year. The only game they have lost at home this season was by one wicket to Western Australia, and it can be a difficult pitch for opposition batsmen to adjust to.
"You have to accept that the ball is going to beat you at times," Burns told ESPNcricinfo. "It is a green seamer, there is a lot of pace in the wicket and if the bowlers bowl in good areas it's always tough. You can't be chasing the ball too much. You have to wait for it to be in your zones. You have to know where you're going to try to score and if you have a clear plan you can score quickly. You can use the characteristics of the wicket to your advantage.
"Once you're in you certainly can score freely because there is so much pace on the ball. You can score on both sides of the wicket quite easily. Generally there are quite attacking fields at the Gabba, simply because the ball does a bit more than in the southern states. That can help as well. I like to play straight and hit the ball as late as possible."
Burns, 22, earned his first full state contract ahead of this season and the adjustment to life as a professional cricketer, while also studying for an economics degree, took some time. Early in the summer he was frustrated that too few of his starts were turning into the big scores he knew he was capable of after making 140 on his first-class debut last February. In the second half of the campaign he lifted his output considerably.
"I've found that to be a good first-class cricketer it's just relentless, week-in, week-out work," Burns said. "There's no time to relax. There's always another challenge around the corner. Every state is a tough opposition. When you're travelling as well, it provides different batting conditions.
"Going around the country and playing against all the different bowlers has been really enjoyable and because it's been enjoyable, it makes all the hard work a lot easier to deal with. It would be fantastic to cap off my first full season with a Shield victory."
It's also the first full season for the Queensland coach Darren Lehmann, who has brought an attacking approach to the team's style. Burns said Lehmann had asked the young players to back themselves, set out to win games rather than just to survive, and Queensland finished the qualifying rounds on top of the table with six wins from ten matches.
"Boof has been fantastic this year," Burns said. "It's amazing how much effect he's had coming in to his first season as coach. It really is a testament to his ability as a coach. He's a fantastic cricketer but the best thing about him is he's such a good teacher of the game. The younger guys really connect well with him. You can understand the things he's trying to teach us really clearly and quickly."
During Lehmann's 147-match career, he twice had the opportunity to lift the Sheffield Shield, once with Victoria and once with South Australia. If all goes to plan for the Bulls, Burns might get his chance in just his 14th first-class game.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here