Rory Burns has produced his most profitable Test match by way of runs and formed one half of England’s first century opening partnership at home in four years, but he remains wary of feeling too comfortable at international level.
In following a first innings 57 with 90 in the second, as England set West Indies 399 to win over two days and then saw Stuart Broad strike twice late on, Burns surpassed his previous best haul of 144 runs across two innings during last year’s first Ashes Test against Australia at Edgbaston.
There has been a surprise puzzle thrown up by Roston Chase’s gentle off-breaks during this series, something Burns admitted has preyed on his mind a touch, but 18 caps into his Test career and averaging just shy of 36, the Surrey opener’s graph continues to head in the right direction.
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 [in the team] but I think it’s also a dangerous position to put yourself in. It helps my game that, as a player, I’ve enjoyed captaincy at Surrey and thinking about other people’s games too. I like helping guys like Sibbo [Dom Sibley].”
Burns and Sibley (56) put on 114 for the first wicket in becalmed fashion – England’s first century opening stand at home since Alastair Cook and Alex Hales combined for 126 against Pakistan in 2016 – before Broad completed a remarkable six-wicket day to move within one wicket of 500 Test victims.
“I didn’t know [Stuart] was as close as he was,” said Burns. “Sibbo nudged me before he’d bowled a ball and said ‘he’s on 497’ and I thought ‘we better catch some then’. It will be a pretty ridiculous achievement [to get 500]. He’s chipped in some handy runs in this Test too and he’s bowling really well at the minute.”
It was Chase who removed Burns for the fourth time in five innings, the batsman looking for quick runs and a third Test century before Joe Root’s declaration. It could have come when the opener was on just 13, only for substitute wicketkeeper Joshua da Silva to lose his footing while trying to pull off a stumping.
The uncapped Da Silva was on the field due to Shane Dowrich suffering a badly cut lip when struck in the face by a short ball from Shannon Gabriel that wobbled once it had passed the batsman. West Indies expect Dowrich to bat in the fourth innings but, having reported a headache, he must undergo further concussion tests before doing so.
Phil Simmons, the West Indies head coach, once again called on one of his batsmen to produce the team’s first century of the tour in the hope that the rain forecast for Monday can combine with a resolute final day rearguard to save the Test and see the Wisden Trophy retained at 1-1.
On the bowling attack, whose work is now done, Simmons said: “I am so appreciative for the work they have put in, especially the quicks who have played in all the Tests. They have given us everything and I will raise a glass for them.”
“We’re struggling where the runs are concerned and have done since the second Test, but a lot of work has been done here,” Simmons added. “Yes, guys will go home running on empty but that’s what you want at the end of a series. They’ve given their all and if that’s not good enough, then you take that and work on how you can get better.”