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Burns bids to become the Surrey opener in fashion

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County round-up: Another Rory Burns hundred pushes his credentials (2:09)

Surrey batsman Mark Stoneman's struggles continue against Hampshire whilst Lancashire's Jordan Clark leads the fightback against Essex. (2:09)

Surrey 216 for 3 (Burns 109*, Foakes 68*) vs Hampshire
Scorecard

The streaker is not - thankfully - a common sight in Championship cricket. It's not just that the atmosphere of the game hardly warrants it - it's a bit like crowd surfing in a library - but, with the schedule pushing matches to the margins of the season, it's not very warm, either. And the cold is neither comfortable or flattering.

So it was hard to imagine why anyone would strip off and run around the Ageas Bowl pitch in light drizzle towards the end of the first day of this match. Insanity was one theory. Stolen trousers another. Or could it be Rory Burns in a desperate attempt to be noticed?

The answer to that we should make very clear - we live in litigious times, you know - is a resounding no. But if Burns were driven to such measures it might, to a point, be understandable. After all, he keeps churning out runs. But it doesn't seem to make any difference.

But Burns is becoming, for the best of reasons, hard to ignore. After finishing the 2017 season as the third-highest run-scorer in Division One, he is now the second-highest run scorer in the division this season.

Here, against an attack boasting 623 Test wickets (Sean Ervine, who hardly bowls these days, is not included in that tally), he made his second century of the campaign. Only Hashim Amla has scored more runs in Division One this year, no England-qualified batsman has more centuries and nobody in either division has faced more deliveries.

At a time when it appears just about every opening batsman with a pulse and bladder control has been considered by England, it is puzzling that Burns - with a career average of 42.51 in first-class cricket - has not had as much as a Lions call. Indeed, to talk to those who know him at Surrey, it seems he has not had as much as a phone call from the selectors or England management.

That will surely be rectified soon. The Lions play India A at New Road from July 16 and it would be bizarre if Burns does not win an opportunity to impress. While England may feel they have settled upon an opening pair for the India series, it remains possible that Burns could slot in at No. 3, thereby allowing Joe Root to revert to what appears to be his favoured No. 4 position. He may be just the thing an England side crying out for stability requires.

One of the arguments against Burns is that he scores his runs - or many of them, at least - on relatively flat tracks at The Oval. And there is some truth in that. But developing a game on those surfaces also builds confidence and technique. So, unlike some openers, who have adapted to testing conditions in the county game by attempting to smash their way to runs as fast as possible in the hope they can score a few before an unplayable delivery arrives, Burns has the confidence to build an innings. He leaves well, he drives sweetly - some of his cover drives in this innings were a thing of beauty - and he is good off his legs.

He is not especially pleasing on the eye - not in his stance, anyway, crouching with his bottom stuck out far behind him and his head turning at the last moment as if the square-leg fielder has just said something appalling about his mother - but this should not put off the selectors. Alastair Cook's batting is hardly pretty, after all, and he has done rather well.

And there is no ignoring runs against this attack. With Dale Steyn (419 Test wickets) keen to prove his fitness ahead of a potential return to Test cricket bowling, forming a formidable opening pair alongside Fidel Edwards (165 Test wickets) with Kyle Abbott (39 Test wickets) and the vastly underrated Gareth Berg in support, this innings cannot, in any way, be dismissed as soft. While it is true this sluggish surface meant he was hardly tested by the short ball in this innings, there was lateral movement and he coped with it admirably.

"It's an outstanding attack," Surrey coach Michael Di Venuto said afterwards. "There aren't too many better in Championship cricket.

"That was a terrific innings from a fantastic player. Hopefully he gets recognition and higher honours soon. He just scores runs and that's the name of the game for a batsman."

Surrey were grateful for Burns' resistance. They were two down after the first over after Mark Stoneman was caught in the slips and Scott Borthwick attempted a sharp single only to be run-out by Brad Taylor's direct hit from cover.

Stoneman's poor luck continues. After a horrid second-innings dismissal at Lord's - the ball keeping low - ended his Test career for now, here he was victim of a fine piece of bowling. With Edwards - the pick of the bowlers - generally moving the ball back into the left-hander, Stoneman was obliged to play the delivery just outside off stump. But this time it was angled across him and caught the edge on its way.

With Mason Crane - who has worryingly experienced a recurrence of pain in his back - and Liam Dawson - finger - injured, Hampshire were obliged to give an opportunity to the off-spin of Taylor. And, while he ended Ryan Patel's promising stay - the batsman simply missed one he had attempted to turn into the leg side - Ben Foakes, in particular, took a bit of a shine to him. At one stage he was plundered for three boundaries in an over.

Foakes endured some nervous moments at the start of his innings. Edwards beat him a couple of times outside off stump and Burns may have survived an edge in between the keeper and first slip off Abbott when he had 74, but generally the pair were sound and resourceful in adding an unbroken 133 for the fourth-wicket.

Edwards, who will shortly depart to represent Winnipeg Hawks in the Canada Cricket League - a somewhat surprising turn of events - was the pick of the bowlers. Steyn, being the class act he is, was tidy and, in his first couple of spells, occasionally dangerous. But, playing his first first-class came since the first week of January, he is still feeling his way back to full pace and was not helped by a pitch on which, once the hardness of the new ball has gone, is slow. He later announced himself happy to simply be out on the pitch. There's more to come from him.

There's more to come from Burns, too. Not only will Surrey be keen for him to add substantially to his overnight score, but it seems his opportunity - at Lions level, at least - must be imminent. His is a hot streak that cannot be ignored.

Hampshire 3rd innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st8JHK AdamsJJ Weatherley
2nd42JM VinceJJ Weatherley
3rd26SM ErvineJJ Weatherley
4th30RR RossouwJJ Weatherley
5th1RR RossouwLD McManus
6th10GK BergRR Rossouw
7th34RR RossouwBJ Taylor
8th19KJ AbbottRR Rossouw
9th5DW SteynRR Rossouw
10th0FH EdwardsRR Rossouw