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The one shot that made all the difference for Joe Burns

The Australia opener emerged from a form slump with a half-century to secure victory

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
21-Dec-2020
It was one shot that made a world of difference to Joe Burns. When he latched onto a short ball from Umesh Yadav in the seventh over of Australia's chase in Adelaide, it rocketed to the square-leg fence like few shots he has struck this season. An hour later, he top-edged a hook for six that brought a half-century, a victory and a sense of accomplishment.
Burns entered the series on the back of 62 runs in nine innings for Queensland and Australia A this season. His position was the dominant topic of debate in the days leading into the first Test; he was given the word that his place was secure the day before the match. The injuries to David Warner and Will Pucovski perhaps helped in that options had diminished, but it was still a considerable show of faith.
In the first innings he battled for more than an hour before falling to a borderline lbw decision against Jasprit Bumrah. The next day early in the run chase (that's how quickly the game moved) he was hammered a painful blow on the elbow from the same bowler.
Burns revealed that during the last over before the interval he was basically batting one handed before he was dosed up with painkillers and strapped up. He was far from pain free - subsequent scans have cleared him of any damage - but a few overs into the resumption he was playing with as much freedom as he has managed all season.
"It's funny how in this game it's often one shot that can give you everything you've been searching for," he said. "Probably the first pull shot I hit off Umesh Yadav, think I was on 4 and it came out of the middle and felt amazing. I think all summer I've been confident, I've been batting well, just without rhythm. To find some rhythm in the middle, often it can be one shot away. I just kept working hard, been in this situation many times before, you know how quickly it can turn."
One of the first people towards Burns after the winning moment was coach Justin Langer who had been among the many voices vouching for him through the lean season and one of the key decision-makers in whether he would retain his place. He was also very active with Burns during net sessions in the days leading into the match. Like players, it can be a fine line for selectors between calls perceived as a success or a failure.
"Obviously JL has been right in my corner over the last few weeks," Burns said. "The message from him was just about finding rhythm, more than anything in the preparation he really wanted me to play my shots in training and be strong-minded. I guess that shone through in that innings and by the end it felt amazing. Always a special feeling when you aren't making runs and you have someone in your corner. The challenges of international cricket keep coming and for the rest of the series it will be very tough, my job and my goal is get big matchwinning hundreds in those games.
"There's always noise in this game, it's why you love playing for Australia. Think JL said there's always theatre around the team. Those conversations I had with Justin were fantastic. He has been through it all before, he knows what it's like to open the batting for his country. It's very relatable. The message was, you miss out in a few games it doesn't change your ability, confidence, mindset, preparation."
Burns also reveled in the high intensity of the Test arena, both in terms of the preparation and the contest itself in the middle. Even when the runs completely dried up in the two warm-up matches against the Indians - with scores of 4, 0, 0 and 1 - he felt he could draw on his past achievements.
"You reflect on the year that's been, the big lay-off from playing with the pandemic going on, then we were playing Shield games at some club grounds so it was nice to get out in a Test match at a Test venue, more than anything to get back around this group," he said. "I said to one of the boys on the first day coming in, it certainly felt like being home again, so much confidence in this team and it flows through to all the players.
"And to take on a fantastic opposition in such a big series, it's easy to get yourself locked in before that first ball. I'd love to be coming off four-five first-class hundreds but at the end of the day it doesn't matter what's happened before, your skills stay the same and your job stays the same and your ambitions stay the same. You just have to do it. Fortunately for me I've got 10 years of experience to draw on if the preceding five or six weeks weren't great."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo