Burns now has 222 reasons to stay in the side
BEFORE Joe Burns got the news he had missed the Ashes tour he rose early, went to the hotel buffet and ate as if there was no tomorrow.
Then he got the bad news — there was no tomorrow.
Burns was nervous and smiled to himself that even though it was morning it might be his Last Supper so he might as well attack the buffet with the sort of zest normally reserved for lions attacking wounded buffalo.
When you have been dropped five times from the Test team you half expect to be feathered out in 50-50 calls so when Trevor Hohns gave him the bad news — heartbreaking though it was — he simply headed off to Spain and Germany for a holiday and swore to return a better player.
Maybe missing the Ashes will be a blessing for him.
Two months of pain may be the price for long-term gain. He’s missed the series of the decade but will now finish the decade in style and in the team.
The joy for the cricketer who has been in and out of the team so often is that at last he is assured a short-term future.
Burns may have been dropped after scoring 180 but you cannot drop a player who returns then makes 97 in his next Test innings. The numbers are just too good to ignore.
Burns trudged off the Gabba yesterday a shattered man after being bowled behind his legs by Yasir Shah but while it was a bitter pill to swallow to fall so close to a ton, he is cricket’s Heartbreak Kid no more.
In a perverse way when Burns under-edged the first ball he faced just shy of the keeper it just felt as if this could be his lucky day. It always felt like all he needed was an ounce of luck.
Burns and David Warner added 222 for the first wicket at the Gabba, a stunning contrast to Australia’s past 10 opening stands of 2, 13, 11, 13, 12, 10, 1, 0, 5 and 18.
Australia has gone from bread and dripping to champagne and chocolates, admittedly against a team who, for all their promising threads, cannot weave the full Test match tapestry.
Yesterday Burns’s home audience saw the best of him.
His fierce pull shots, audacious lofting of the spinners and a couple of smoking drives to the fast men were the sign of a batsman finding his mojo.
He fell three runs shy of what would have been his fifth century in 17 Tests. The list of players who finished their careers with five Test centuries includes many of Australia’s most underrated cricketers.
It features Bob Cowper who scored a triple century against England, Jack Fingleton who is famed for being a Bodyline warrior, Darren Lehmann and Chris Rogers, whose record is looking better each passing year as Australia tries to find a partner for Warner.
At first glance Warner and Burns do not have much in common. One spent his life in the headlines. The other seems to sail quietly beneath them.
One’s an instinctive leftie, the other a deep-thinking right-hander. Watch them in the field and Warner prowls while Burns stands quietly.
Yet they get along well and bat together even better.
TWO MONTHS OF PAIN MAY BE THE PRICE FOR LONG-TERM GAIN.