Could Rory Burns be the next Alastair Cook for England?
By all reasonable definitions, 2019 has been a miraculous year for the English cricket fraternity.
After winning the World Cup, they also managed to maintain their formidable record of not losing a home series to Australia since 2001. Although they failed to get back the urn from the Aussies, they would be happy to settle for a 2-2 draw after going into the final Test trailing.
However, the series exposed the fragility of their batting order and it needs a major revamp. They have a few important boxes to tick before their upcoming Test series against New Zealand.
Opening issue sorted?
Though Rory Burns' remarkable act of defiance has solved one of their major problems. As of now, it seems that England has finally got one of the opening pair on spot.
In what had been a nightmarish series for openers, Burns turned out to be an exception by a fine margin. He has easily outscored the other five opening batsman of this series.
David Warner's hopes of redemption were shattered by the predatory instincts of Stuart Broad who dismissed him seven out of 10 times in this series. He finished this series with a miserable average of 9.50. Similarly, other openers like Jason Roy, Marcus Harris and Cameron Bancroft too had a very forgettable summer.
In a series where reaching double-digit figures for openers were considered as some sort of achievement, Rory Burns finished it with three half-centuries, including one century against one of the most lethal bowling sides in the world.
Starting this series with a meagre average of just over 22 in his first seven matches, very few would have envisioned the idea of Burns succeeding against the hostility and aggression of Aussies speedster.
After getting out for a single-digit score in both innings against Ireland, doubts about his unusual batting style began to grow.
However, the 29-year-old Surrey man had a point to prove. And he did in the very first occasion with a gutsy knock of 133 in Edgbaston. He played and missed more than 30 times, edged it over 15 times, even survived an LBW shout after Paine refused a review and still went on to bat through the whole day, the first English batsman to achieve this in a home-series since Alastair Cook did it last summer.
His unusual batting stance might not please old-school purists, neither his technical proficiency matches the level of Cook or Strauss but he knows the art of hanging on out there and seeing off the tough phase without losing his mental composure.
His idiosyncratic stance makes it tough to deal with short-pitched balls. Pat Cummins beautifully capitalised on his weakness and dismissed him several times. However, Rory Burns worked out on his weakness and successfully defended a flurry of short balls from Cummins and Hazlewood at Old Trafford before getting out at 81.
Burns bluntly refused to change his unusual batting stance as this is the same technique with which he has accumulated more than 1000 runs for five consecutive seasons at the domestic level.
And with the same technique, Rory Burns faced 896 deliveries this series, 57 more than what Alastair Cook ever did in a home series. Only Ben Stokes scored more runs than Burns in this series for England.
After testing 12 different batsmen with Alastair Cook following Andrew Strauss' retirement in 2012, England now needed an entirely fresh pair of openers after Cook decided to bid adieu to international cricket. It was a big void to fill and England is yet to find any major success in this regard.
Rory Burns' courage and consistency in the series has shown enough hints of why he can be the next Cook for England. He is as diligent and tenacious as Test openers should be in the initial phase of the game and slowly transforms into a tough and indefatigable guy to get rid of as the game progresses.
Burns may not be as elegant and sophisticated player as Cook but he has got an uncanny ability to get runs in any manner that works. Only time will tell whether he can be the next Cook or not but as of now, England has found a new ray of hope in Rory Burns and his inclusion adds great value to their squad.