Rory Joseph Burns
August 26, 1990, Epsom, Surrey
Left hand bat
Right arm medium
City of London Freemen's School
England had tried more elegant or aggressive options in their bid to find a reliable Test opener, but few offered the returns or the resilience of Rory Burns.
By the time the 2019 Ashes ended, Burns had not only established himself as England's first choice opener but registered two things even Alastair Cook never managed: a home Ashes century and more than 350 runs in a home Ashes series. England, it seemed, had found their man. There were even whispers to suggest he could, in time, develop into a Test captaincy option.
Perhaps due to misgivings about his perceived technical idiosyncrasies - he is a man happy to do things very much his own way - Burns had to work harder than most to win his opportunity on the tour of Sri Lanka in 2018. Alastair Cook's retirement had left a gaping hole at the top of England's order and Burns, at 28, had undoubtedly earned the right to press his claims to replace him. Many had tried and failed.
He impressed in both Sri Lanka and the Caribbean - he averaged in the mid-20s in both series - without the big scores to nail down a place. But a century in the first Ashes Test - a scrappy but determined affair - seemed to settle him and, while the Australian attack tested him with the short ball, he proved equal to the challenge and admirably tight outside off stump. Half-centuries followed at Lord's and Manchester, with 47 more at The Oval.
Burns was also a self-effacing captain of Surrey (not a common occurrence) which made his 2018 summer a double triumph. His 1,359 runs at 64.71 were a central component of Surrey's first Championship for 16 years - a veritable stroll for an exciting young side. He admitted to a peculiar batting style: a left-hander with a dominant left eye, he adopted an open stance to bring his dominant eye into play. The frustration of Surrey supporters when he was not given a Test debut in the final Test of the summer against India - the series had already been won - gave way to delight when he finally won a chance to prove his worth, albeit in unfamiliar surroundings.
Burns is a batsman of impressive consistency and unusual self-denial. He has a compact game, centred on his dexterity off his legs and his driving through the covers, and the patience to leave the ball copiously. He has been a model of consistency for Surrey, passing 1,000 first-class runs for five successive seasons between 2014-18. The respect he engenders within the camp was also shown with the award of the captaincy in 2018.
Burns' 2017 summer was particularly statistically weighty. The Oval played flat and true and, by the end of the Championship season, Surrey had the three biggest run-makers in the country: Kumar Sangakkara, who was feted around the country as he averaged more than 100 in his farewell season to first-class cricket, Mark Stoneman, who won England recognition, and Burns himself, whose average was a touch below 50 and who stirred little interest outside south London. The only time he passed 100 he turned into a mammoth 219 not out, a career-best stretching over nearly 10 hours, in a batting stalemate against Hampshire at The Oval.
The turbulence at Surrey in 2012 gave Burns his chance in the Championship side just before his 22nd birthday, and he immediately responded with a century marked by unobtrusive accumulation in a nerve-shredding eight-run victory over Middlesex that helped Surrey to escape relegation. There have been plenty of examples of Burns' class since, although he has gone through more form-slumps than he would have liked.
His orthodoxy has limited his chances in one-day and T20 cricket, although Burns has developed the ability to paddle the ball over fine leg and is working on adding more power to the game. He is also a very assured wicketkeeper, though Surrey have deemed that it is not viable for him to open and keep wicket simultaneously in the long-term.
Burns was involved in a frightening collision in the field with his Surrey team-mate Moises Henriques as they both converged on a skier in a NatWest T20 Blast tie at Arundel in 2015. Both players were taken to hospital, Henriques breaking his jaw in three places and Burns requiring stitches after cuts near his left eye. His 158 against Essex at the Colchester Festival showed he had suffered no long-term effects from an incident that he said he could remember nothing about.
Burns made 158 and 71 against Essex. Thereafter, across all formats, he made runs all the way - 76, 95, 24, 42, 92, 23, 50, 56, 30 - until a duck on the final day with the Division Two title already in the bag: proof, if it was needed, that his horrific injury had brought no lasting effects.
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