BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) - Rory Burns’ superb maiden test century and 57 from Joe Root put England in a strong position — 17 runs behind with six wickets in hand — going into day three of the first Ashes test against Australia, as their top order finally clicked.
When Jason Roy teamed up with Burns against Ireland in the build up to the Ashes series, they were England’s eighth different opening partnership in the past three years and the 16th since Andrew Strauss retired in 2012.
England’s top-order has struggled for several years and when the team was skittled for 85 by Ireland in the first innings of last week’s test, it prompted captain Root to move up to number three.
Root averaged 48 from 60 innings at number four — compared with 40 from 40 innings at three — and with Burns averaging less than 23 and Roy’s inexperience in the test environment, little was expected from England’s top three at Edgbaston.
While Roy’s innings never got going before he was out for 10, Burns became the first England opener other than Alistair Cook to score a test century in four years.
“I have done that before in county cricket so do have experience to draw upon,” Burns said after his unbeaten knock of 125 helped England to finish day two on 267-4.
“I literally bury my head in the sand to all comments in the media and get team mates and coaches around me who back me and try to back my own skills.
“It was a wonderful experience and hopefully I am not done yet.
A HARD-FOUGHT TON
Burns looked nervous, surviving plenty of close calls, throughout his innings and also got stuck on 99 for nine dot balls.
He faced 35 balls while in the 90s and needed a quick single, which had to be reviewed by the third umpire for a run out, to reach three figures.
“To come here and look so organised and do his job so well shows great mental strength and that’s really key,” his former Surrey team mate Kumar Sangakkara said.
“It was an excellent display of opening batting. I don’t think he will have had any doubts about his ability.”
Root again missed out on three figures but his 42nd test half century provided ample support for Burns, who became the first batsman to make a century on his Ashes debut since Tim Robinson — this test’s fourth umpire — in 1985.
Many had predicted that England’s middle order would make all the difference, with Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali all capable of scoring big on Saturday.
After Burns stepped up on Friday, England will now be eager to build on the platform he has already provided.
Reporting by Peter Hall, editing by Pritha Sarkar