A left-handed opener who leaves well, cuts well, sweeps well and is willing to bide his time at the crease. One would imagine we are talking about the legendary England batsman Alastair Cook.
However, this description is also uncannily befitting for Rory Burns. The impact that Cook made on England’s cricket was such that when it was time to replace him, the Three Lions were quite exhaustive in their search. A search that led them to Rory Burns.
Cook himself was swayed by his replacement. While discussing Rory Burns' batting display in South Africa, he said, “That character, that strength of mind and the weight of runs he’d scored for Surrey… I think we’re seeing a guy who has a big future for England there.”
Rory Burns made his Test debut against Sri Lanka in November 2018 on the back of captaining his county to its first County Championship title since 2002. He also ended up scoring 1359 runs, at an average of 64.71, in the process. The left-hander passed the 1000-run threshold for the fifth consecutive season in doing so.
The transition from first-class cricket to Test cricket was not easy for him. However, much like his manner of batting, he remained eager to endure.
His peculiar and stiff stance where he seems to look in the direction of mid-on, his fidgety trigger movements and his limited range of shots meant that he was subject to a great deal of criticism when he first hit the international circuit. From his initial 24 innings, he amassed a mere 702 runs at a lowly average of 29.25.
In an interview just before his debut, he explained his stance, “I got told I was left-eye dominant, so [looking to mid-on] is about me trying to get my left eye on the ball as much as I can. Then it almost became a rhythm thing in terms of little routines at the crease.”
It was the gritty maiden Test ton, which lasted for nearly seven hours in the first Ashes Test in 2019 that matured into his coming-of-age innings. This knock, at the biggest stage, helped him silence his critics and instilled confidence in him.
"I literally buried my head in the sand to all sorts of comments, media that sort of stuff," Burns told the media after the end of the day’s play. "I just tried to get myself around people that back me –- team-mates, coaches,” he added.
Rory Burns moves from strength to strength
Since the Ashes, he has scored 511 runs from ten innings at a healthy average of 51.1 and has become the first opener barring Cook to score 1000 runs or more after Andrew Strauss' retirement.
The superstar of English cricket, Ben Stokes, is also in awe of the newly-settled opener. After the Test series against New Zealand, the premier all-rounder commented, “We have found a gem in Rory Burns. He is going to have a long future. He is similar to Alastair Cook in the way he operates, occupying the crease and looking to spend time out in the middle to score his runs.
“He has got everything there to be a very successful opener for England over a long period of time.”
Even though the team and the pundits are delighted with Rory Burns’ performances, he is mature enough to understand the competitive nature and the dangers of international cricket.
After his knock of 90 runs against the West Indies, Rory Burns said, “You always feel under pressure to keep scoring. I felt like that at Surrey before Test level. Runs are currency and you want to keep putting up the numbers. I suppose to a certain extent you can feel settled but I think it's also a dangerous position to put yourself in.”
England would be glad that they've replaced one of their greatest Test openers with a man who doesn't merely resemble Cook's batting style but also possesses a similar temperament and mental fortitude.