Rory Burns looks to hit top gear with 'decent sort of experience' in Australia

England opener says he has "got a good picture" of how Australia's quicks operate

Alex Malcolm
Rory Burns takes it easy at nets, Trent Bridge, August 3, 2021

Rory Burns is part of England's advanced squad that arrived in Australia on Saturday  •  Getty Images

While the return of Ben Stokes has been considered a huge boost to England's chances of winning the Ashes, Rory Burns knows his role at the top of the order could hold the key to glory in Australia.
Burns is part of England's advanced squad that arrived in Australia on Saturday, while the rest of the contingent is in the UAE at the T20 World Cup. The group that touched down in Queensland is undergoing 14-day hotel quarantine but will get to train under strict biosecure protocols at the Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast during their quarantine period, with batting coach Graham Thorpe overseeing the squad as the head coach Chris Silverwood is in the UAE.
England's last two series triumphs in Australia, in 2010-11 and 1986-87, have been underpinned by superb batting displays from a senior opener. Alastair Cook piled up 766 runs in 2010-11, with three centuries, including 235 not out in Brisbane, and absorbed 1438 deliveries across five Test matches. Cook also made 244 not out at the MCG in 2017 in the only Test England haven't lost in their last two series down under. Chris Broad also faced over 1000 deliveries in 1986-87, piling up three hundreds in England's 2-1 series triumph. Michael Vaughan too scored three centuries on the unsuccessful 2002-03 Ashes tour.
Burns knows he would need to produce something similar at the top if England were to regain the Ashes.
"That'd be nice wouldn't it," Burns said from hotel quarantine on the Gold Coast. "Obviously, some good names on that list.
"Generally, sides that do well, their top order performs, tries to get scores together as a team and a group, lets your middle order have the best use of conditions there as well."
Burns hasn't toured Australia before with England or England Lions but has had three stints in Australia playing grade cricket in Adelaide and Sydney. He played alongside Australia's Travis Head at Tea Tree Gully in Adelaide in 2012-13, where the pair shared a 154-run stand in a game. He also had stints at St George and Randwick-Petersham in Sydney, making centuries for both clubs, playing alongside Australia players Moises Henriques and Nathan Ellis.
"It's good to have some experience in Australia, but I'm trying not to formulate too many opinions off just that"
Rory Burns, England opener
"I've got a decent sort of experience of conditions out here, playing grade cricket," Burns said. "Got a T20 hundred [for Randwick], which is probably not the thing to bring up in this call, obviously, we're looking at the red-ball format, but yeah, I did alright.
"Obviously, the majority of places that I've toured in my career so far with England, I actually haven't been to, so it's nice that I've been here and I've got some experience of conditions out here.
"Plans can start being formulated a fraction earlier. But it all depends where you go. I've never been to Brisbane or Queensland before, so wickets and surfaces change depending on where you are. It's good to have some experience in Australia, but I'm trying not to formulate too many opinions off just that."
Burns has another connection within the Australia dressing room having worked closely with current Australia batting coach Michael Di Venuto at Surrey when Di Venuto was his head coach.
"We spoke about batting a lot, you know, certain shots that you can or can't play," Burns said. "The way he set up, he was very much pull and cut and quite aggressive. So he's given me a few snippets along the way, and I'm looking forward to catching up with him at some stage."
But the left-hand batter will draw more from his performances against Australia in the 2019 Ashes in England. In a torrid series for most of the openers on both sides, Burns stood tall, scoring a century at Edgbaston and two more half-centuries in the face of some high-quality bowling from Australia's quicks, particularly Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.
"They're very good operators," Burns said. "They don't give you a lot of bad stuff. And they're pretty relentless when they get it right, and they obviously bowl at a good pace. For me, what I'd say I'd taken out of it is the fact that I've been able to see them, I've been able to play against them before. You know, I've got a sort of a good picture of how they operate. So it allows me to put my best sort of plan together and prep for them."

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo