Burns' Virgin Test Of A Hundred Pulls Up To The England Towards Parity > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - Burns' maiden Test hundred fires up England towards parity

Burns scored 125 not out on the second day's play.

We've already had our fair share of excitement this summer. The World Cup and that ridiculous final. A free-wheeling two and a half day Test against Ireland. An opening day of the Ashes which saw ten wickets fall as well as a fine hundred. We have been treated to fast and loose cricket for two months but too much of a good thing can start to become dull. And so a traditional sort of Test match day, one which ended with England marginally on top and just 17 runs behind, was a welcome change of tempo. Day two was one of nuance and graft rather than crash, bang, wallop. And it was certainly no less interesting for that.

Nothing encapsulated the struggle and the grind better than Rory Burns' maiden Test hundred. It was an innings of discipline and restraint. This was not aggressive, dynamic, run-a-ball stuff. It wasn't an innings you would particularly want to watch again. But it was a 282 ball stay built on accumulation and defence, concentration and doggedness. He faced the first ball and the last ball. It wasn't exhilarating but it was effective. Burns simply wasn't going to be rushed. He spent 18 deliveries on 92 and then nine more on 99.

It was significant not just because of how much England needed it in this game. With their fabled brittleness, a decent batting performance first up in this series was required after two poor ones against Ireland. But more than that, the context of Burns' position in the team gives his hundred here wider significance. Averaging 22 before this game, he had looked neither hopelessly out of place or to the manor born in his seven previous games. Because of that, he needed a hundred to quell the murmurs about his position in the team. This was the hundred he really needed.

As well as he played to remain unbeaten by the close, it was his lucky day too. He should have been given out LBW on 22 but wasn't and Australia didn't review. He edged through the vacant third-slip area in the sixties. On 75, Joe Root called Burns for a suicidal single and he was not even in the frame as the ball narrowly missed the stumps. He played and missed regularly. He easily could have been gone earlier and the debate about his credentials as a Test match opener would have continued. For the moment, that debate is parked.

He found good support in Root as the pair put on 132 for the second wicket after Jason Roy had edged James Pattinson to second slip early on. England's captain, restored at number three, started watchfully but became more fluent as the first session progressed. He reached his fourth consecutive half-century against Australia after lunch but on none of those occasions has he been able to go on and register a hundred. Peter Siddle, the pick of Australia's bowlers, took an excellent one-handed caught and bowled from a mistimed drive to dismiss him here.

For all their previous fallibilities, though, this was England's batsmen proving they can tough it out when needed, that they can play the situation, that they can take opposition bowlers into their third and fourth spells. Too often over the last five years, England have crumpled in a heap when put under pressure on tricky pitches. This is not a minefield by any means but, given it is slow and taking some turn, neither is it a batting paradise. That makes today's performance important for the confidence and template for the future it will have given them. It was proper Test match batting albeit with a large dollop of good fortune.

While England's batsmen grafted, Australia's bowlers had to do likewise on a pitch which offered them less movement than their opponents had on day one. Given the luck Burns had, the amount of play and misses engineered from all the batsmen, the ball from Pattinson which clipped Root's stumps but failed to dislodge the bails and an LBW decision against the same batsman which was overturned on review, Australia will feel hard done by to emerge from a day in the dirt with only four wickets to show for it. They bowled far better than that and on another day, they could have been the side on top at the close rather than England.

At one stage, it looked as if four wickets might even be beyond Australia but a change of ball after 60 overs certainly helped their cause. The replacement swung briefly which accounted for Joe Denly and Jos Buttler in quick succession. Before the change of ball, England looked in control. After it, they looked vulnerable. It was strange then when captain Tim Paine brought Nathan Lyon on as soon as Ben Stokes arrived at the crease.

Siddle was his relentless and accurate self, pitching it up, probing technique and patience. He went at just two runs an over for the day, playing the long game as Australia intended when they selected him ahead of Mitchell Starc. On a day which required bowlers to bowl dry, Siddle was the perfect man for the job. Pattinson hustled in, removing Denly LBW with a ball which tailed in at decent pace, while Pat Cummins was rather more inconsistent, struggling to find his lines and lengths early on which let Burns and Root settle. He improved as the day wore on and still produced a gem to get Buttler caught at third slip.

Lyon got through 25 overs and, like Cummins, improved as the day progressed. Initially, he dropped short with uncharacteristic regularity but once he settled in, his accuracy improved. By the final session, he was finding turn and bounce, posing both Burns and Stokes problems and passing their outside edge often. Given the expected deterioration in the pitch, Lyon will have plenty more bowling to do in this game and England will need a sizeable first innings lead to ensure they do not have to chase too many against him in the fourth innings. Another day of graft is required tomorrow.

Brief Scores: Australia 284 lead England 267/4 (Rory Burns 125*, Joe Root 57; James Pattinson 2-54) by 17 runs

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