England 267 for 4 (Burns 125*, Stokes 38*) trail Australia 284 by 17 runs
BRIMINGHAM, Aug 3: It didn’t quite have the backstory of Steven Smith’s century, but for the second day running the opening Ashes Test witnessed a hugely significant hundred as Rory Burns showed tremendous resilience to score his first for England.
He finished unbeaten on 125, forming a substantial partnership with Joe Root of 132 and another steadying stand with Ben Stokes, which carried England to 267 for 4 and within sight of what could be a critical lead.
Burns endured a lean Test against Ireland last week with twin scores of 6, his technique, which is unorthodox anyway, appearing out of sync. Before that his Test experience was six games overseas against Sri Lanka and West Indies on tough surfaces, but already the pressure was growing. However, plenty of work between matches and the mental strength that he is renowned for by those who know him well brought rich dividends in what has been a hugely troublesome spot for England.
If Australia had reviewed an lbw appeal against Nathan Lyon he would have gone for 22 and if Usman Khawaja had produced a direct hit he was short on 75. Then he spent more than half an hour in the 90s and sweated nine balls on 99 before scampering a single to mid-on from his 224th delivery.
Burns celebrated as soon as he crossed the crease, but had to wait a few moments for the official verdict as it went to third umpire. All was fine and he could soak up the applause of a raucous Edgbaston crowd. Given the emotion of the moment, it was to his immense credit that he kept his focus throughout the rest of the day.
Australia started the day well, picking up the early success of Jason Roy – James Pattinson’s first Test wicket for three-and-a-half years – and hit back strongly after tea when a ball change produced one which swung significantly to dent the middle order. They didn’t have much luck, either, regularly beating the bat or finding the inside edge, but a long day in the field early in the series will fuel the debate about the balance of the side, particularly with Pattinson managed in reasonably short spells. There was considerable help for Nathan Lyon, to suggest batting last will be tough, so it will have been a disappointment that he went wicketless through 28 overs.
After facing a couple of overs on the first evening, in the aftermath of Smith’s astonishing innings, Burns and Roy resumed in slightly less febrile conditions – if facing Pattinson and Pat Cummins can be put in such terms. Roy fell in the sixth over of the morning, edging Pattinson low to Smith at second slip, but that would be Australia’s only success for the first half of the day.
In contrast to the often frenetic nature of England’s Test batting, Burns and Root bided their time during an opening session that brought 61 runs in 27 overs. Lyon’s first delivery of the day forced people to sit up and take notice as it spun back sharply to nearly take Root’s off stump. Root also had an extraordinary left-off on 9 when he was given caught behind against Pattinson – Joel Wilson going by a woody click – only for replays to show the ball had clipped off stump but not dislodged the bail.
It took Root 70 balls to score his first boundary – he had also been saved by the DRS when given lbw on 12 despite a thin inside edge – but his and England’s rate lifted during the afternoon. Burns kept Australia’s slip cordon interested with a collection of edges along the ground and in the air which eventually persuaded Tim Paine to plug the gap and go without a fine leg for a brief period, but also drove strongly and nudged through his favoured on side.
Just when Australia were beginning to look flat, Root bunted a return to catch Peter Siddle who stuck out his right hand. Having converted fifties into hundreds against India, Sri Lanka and West Indies this was a missed opportunity for the captain. He thumbed the staircase of the dressing room in frustration.