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Fire burned for Erin, but perspective most important

Sydney Sixers middle-order batter has had an outstanding season after missing the entire previous campaign

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Erin Burns has been prolific in the middle order  •  Getty Images

Erin Burns has been prolific in the middle order  •  Getty Images

Erin Burns has gone from being locked out of playing to having the season of her life for Sydney Sixers.
She has been outstanding in Sixers' middle order, making 294 runs at 36.75 with a strike rate of 147, a key component of a record-breaking regular season that brought 11 wins from 14 matches to put them on top of the table. It came after spending the 2021-22 season on the sidelines, hopes of playing the backend of the competition ended due to the lingering Covid-19 border closures after she missed the start of the campaign to be with pregnant wife Anna.
Now this summer Anna and son Jack have been regular attendees at Sixers matches both at home and away as Burns has proved a master finisher.
Burns, 34, knew she did not want to end her career by not being able to play, but she was off contract with Sixers after they had finished bottom for the first time in their history. However, a new two-year deal was offered and she has more than repaid the faith.
"Last season was incredibly frustrating. It was certainly something I thought about," she said. "So having the opportunity to re-sign for the Sixers for a couple of years, guess there was a little bit more fire burning. I would have been pretty disappointed last year with the way it all panned out. For me, Big Bash is probably the thing I look forward to the most. I do really enjoy my state cricket, but I've always really enjoyed the short-format stuff. And also the fact it's also six weeks. So I was always certain that I wanted to do another season."
So what has clicked for Burns this summer? "I've been asked that a lot," she said, before talking of a new view on life that having a family brings. "I feel perhaps a bit more relaxed about it. I've always had a fairly good perspective around cricket…but having a family, it gives you a lot more perspective on the things that are super important in life and it's allowed me to go into this and enjoy it for what it is."
I was pretty disappointed not to be to get it the girls over the line in Adelaide, so for me it was quite redeeming to be in a similar situation and manage to finish it off
Erin Burns on her innings against Brisbane Heat at North Sydney
There was, though, a technical aspect as well having spent pre-season working on her leg-side game with New South Wales coach Gavan Twining. A bottom-hand dominant technique had left her vulnerable to being bowled and lbw, but during this season's WBBL she has yet to be dismissed in that manner. "Just working on playing a little straighter for a little longer and utilising the crease a little more and that's allowed me to free my hands a bit more and play a bit freer," she said.
And the runs have flowed at crucial times. Her three standout scores are 50 in the opening match of the season against Brisbane Heat, where Maitlan Brown's first-ball six secured a vital confidence-breeding victory - "it was like a final," Burns said - then 71 off 38 balls against Adelaide Strikers which narrowly failed to secure victory and then 51* from 32 against Heat at North Sydney Oval when she and Sophie Ecclestone added a remarkable 92 in 45 balls.
"It was definitely something in my career that would be up there with one of the best wins that I've been a part of and to be there in the middle was pretty special with Sophie," Burns said of that latter display. "Gives us that extra confidence that if our backs are against the wall, going into a final with that experience…personally I was pretty disappointed not to be to get it the girls over the line in Adelaide, so for me it was quite redeeming to be in a similar situation and manage to finish it off."
Burns has also regularly featured when the power surge has been taken - including in that game against Heat in Sydney - and she has enjoyed the new dynamic it has brought to the game for middle-order batters.
"I kind of think 'what are these openers whinging about, you've only got two out'," she joked. "Think it's been a really cool addition to the competition. Being in its first year, think teams are starting to figure it out now, at the start it was a little uncertain and more often than not it brought about a lot of wickets rather than a lot of runs.
"I love it, you've seen a few balls, you are set then you can opt to take surge, especially here at North Sydney with short boundaries, or Adelaide when there was a massive wind coming across the ground, so it's just trying to figure out bowlers you can capitalise on and the dimensions of the ground, areas you can chance your arm at."
Her prolific season, which saw her named in the team of the tournament, was enough to raise the question of an Australia recall after she was last part of the squad for the 2020 T20 World Cup. In the end she did not make the group to go to India next month, but national selector Shawn Flegler has been in contact to tell her next year's World Cup in South Africa was not off the radar.
"We had a good chat to Erin, she's still firmly in the mix for World Cup selection," he said. "We're really pleased that she's come out and performed as strongly as she has in the WBBL. She's an experienced cricketer, she can come seamlessly into the squad if required, and provides a great middle-order batting option for us if that's the role that we require."
For now, though, Burns' only focus is on Saturday's WBBL final at Sixers' stronghold of North Sydney Oval. "You always have that burning dream to represent your country, but for me there's a lot going on for me both on and off the field at the moment so just taking it day by day."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo