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'Keep going, Rory,' Burns was told - and he did

Surrey 483 (Burns 219*) and 166 for 3 dec (Burns 68) drew with Hampshire 648 for 7 dec (Bailey 161, Adams 144, Vince 104)
Scorecard

Fly from London to Bogota. Watch 14 episodes of House of Cards. Listen to all of the Beatles albums. These are many ways to occupy 756 minutes of time. Or, if you are Rory Burns, you can just bat at The Oval.

"You've gotta stay out there Rory," bellowed a spectator in the crowd as Burns walked off 25 minutes before lunch on the final day. Burns had just made the small matter of 219 undefeated runs, an unbroken thread throughout Surrey's first innings. And yet, because his teammates had all been dismissed with Surrey still 16 shy of averting the follow on, Burns was still compelled to return to the field ten minutes later, to make sure the match was saved.

It was, even more than a cricketing challenge, a test of endurance. At the time, Burns had been on the field - either as captain or batsman - for every moment of four sweltering, stuffy days at The Oval. Burns needed every ounce of fitness to manage his physical fatigue. Yet, perhaps even greater was the risk of mental fatigue: the need to sustain his same processes, the same impeccable judgement of each individual delivery, and maintain the same equanimity after every ball.

"I'm pretty tired. Four days on your feet would take it out of anyone," he said. "But when you're fighting to save a game it's far more a mental task than a physical task. It was more what was going on between my ears, and trying to replicate and be consistent in the process of how I was going about my batting."

"Burns, laughing in bemusement at the absurdity of his dismissal, finally left the field, just 29 minutes shy of being a continuous presence"

On and on, he did just that. From the second evening, when he had the burden of opening Surrey's response to the fifth largest total in Hampshire's history, through copious menacing spells from Kyle Abbott, with both new ball and a reverse-swinging old one, a wild third day burst from Fidel Edwards, a marathon bowl for Mason Crane and then Abbott's final, futile spell at the start of Surrey's second innings: Burns withstood them all.

Far from seeming depleted in the second innings, Burns actually produced his most fluent batting of the match, driving exquisitely and flicking the ball sumptuously through midwicket. And then, suddenly and incongruously, it was all over. After 1375 minutes unbroken on the field in the match, Burns received a looping offspinner well outside leg stump. It ricocheted off his pad, and unknowingly deflected off the wicketkeeper's pads onto his stumps. A dream died: that Burns would manage the staggering feat of being undefeated throughout this game, and being on the pitch throughout.

Still, the umpires and opposition players were united in applause as Burns, laughing in bemusement at the absurdity of his dismissal, finally left the field, just 29 minutes shy of being a continuous presence in this County Championship game. All recognised an extraordinary feat. Burns had batted for 535 balls in the match, making 287 runs for once out. Most importantly, Surrey's stand-in captain had, through sheer force of will, saved this match. In a month and a day their Championship summer recommences; Burns' extraordinary feat will survive much longer.

"I think that is the best I've ever played," he said. "I just simplified it. I just tried to stay in my box and watch the ball. It sounds stupid, but that's basically what I was thinking because how the game was set up was that we had to bat seven sessions to try and get ourselves to safety.

"I somehow managed to keep going. I managed to narrow my focus down and was thinking about balls rather than the context of the game." In so doing he had secured the maiden double century of his career, brought up when he glided Crane through midwicket just after noon - a shot, like so many he played, of wonderful timing and precise placement.

The extent of Burns' achievement was unbecoming of a farcical end, with Surrey briefly using the opportunity for some T20 practice ahead of the start of the Blast against an exhausted Hampshire. Both knew that, if Surrey went into the lead, it would mean they could declare - and the match could end 10 minutes earlier. And so, at ten to five, the players shook hands and finally relief came from this dour, spirit-sapping pitch, enough to send everyone - well, all except Burns - comatose.