England’s ‘ugly’ star puts Aussie openers to shame
FOR the third time this series, Australia's underperforming openers have been taught a lesson in discipline and substance by unfashionable England batsman Rory Burns.
Burns entered the series as something of a punchline, with a poor Test outing against Ireland compounded by his unconventional style in the eyes of an unforgiving public.
But across four Tests he's been able to do what no other opener has, outside an outlier half-century from David Warner at Leeds: dig in, weather the early storm and make life tough for the opposition.
For 184 balls at Old Trafford, Burns proved an immovable roadblock - infuriating Australia's attack as he played and missed, fended away short balls and squeezed out runs.
"He's definitely a bit unorthodox for sure but he knows his game well," said Australian fast bowler Josh Hazlewood, who eventually removed Burns for a well-made 81.
"Obviously he's had the same technique for quite a while and knows it inside out. He's quite hard to bowl to.
"Patty (Cummins) looks the best against him but in saying that, he has scored some valuable runs at the top of the order and is doing a job for the team."
After seven innings, Burns is the series' third leading run-scorer, with 323, behind compatriot Ben Stokes and - of course - the outstanding Steve Smith, who leads the way on 589.
For the third time this series Burns passed 50, adding to his 133 at Edgbaston and 53 at Lord's, putting the performances of Australia's David Warner (79 runs @ 11.28), Marcus Harris (40 runs @ 13.33) and Cameron Bancroft (44 @ 11) to shame.
Australia's top order woes have been brutally exposed by England, and Stuart Broad in particular, with their best first-wicket partnership being a mere 13 - from the second innings of the first Test.
Combined, Australia's shambolic openers have scored just 224 runs - a full 99 shy of Burns' contribution.
The experienced Warner has had a horror series, knocked over a stunning five times by Ashes nemesis Broad - with his first-innings 61 at Headingley sitting uncomfortably alongside six single-figure scores.
Harris, meanwhile, has failed to pass 20 since stepping into the shoes of Bancroft - who, like Burns, is unfashionable, but has a top score of just 16.
Harris survived the axe after a poor outing at Leeds, with selectors opting to give the youngster a second chance while showing the door to out-of-form No.3 Usman Khawaja.
When asked if there wass anything Warner and Harris could glean from Burns' blueprint, Hazlewood said his advice was fairly straightforward.
"Just knowing your game and sticking to it - not trying new things out in a game," he said.
"Stick to what works for you. I think our guys have been doing that but England have bowled well to the top order and hopefully our guys can learn from it and keep improving."