If Rory Burns is not yet feeling at his fluent best this season, opposition bowlers would be advised to postpone any celebrations.
Last year the Surrey opener also took a while to hit top form, but went on to command Division One, captaining his side to the Championship title and finishing as its leading run scorer.
He begins 2019 as a Test player, having impressed many with how comfortable he appeared at international level this winter, without fully nailing down a spot ahead of the Ashes.
His pre-season preparations were interrupted by a viral illness after returning from the champion county match in the UAE, but he scrapped his way to 98 against Essex in Surrey’s opening Championship match last week, thereby ensuring a draw for the champions. He believes that spending more time in the middle will help him rediscover his best form.
Burns said: “I came back with a bit of a fever and flu from Dubai and then that turned into tonsillitis, so that wiped me out for five or six days. A few other guys come back with fevers. It’s just aeroplanes and travel. Dust storms as well out in Dubai and dirt up your nose and in your mouth. But I’m all good now.”
Talking about his innings of 98 at Essex in the County Championship, he said: “I’m not feeling at my fluent best at the minute, I’m just trying to scrap my way to scores. I think if you bat time, get yourself out in the middle and you keep doing it, at some stage you’re going to play yourself into a bit of nick. It’s what I managed to do last year and that’s what I’m trying to do this year.”
In fact, last season Burns struck 1,359 runs at an average of 64.71, including three scores in excess of 150. The growing clamour throughout the summer for him to win international honours was finally answered with a call-up for the tours to Sri Lanka and the West Indies. He performed solidly, making two half-centuries, without making the kind of score which would guarantee him a place in the starting XI for the Ashes.
“From a personal standpoint I actually felt pretty good without getting a big score,” he says, looking back on the experience. “I probably should have cashed in a couple of times, but that’s the nature of cricket sometimes you chip one up on 98 and that’s what happens.
“So, I think it’s a case of taking it in your stride. But I feel like I was very comfortable in terms of what we were facing at that level.
“That was a good seam attack as well in the West Indies on some tricky surfaces, so I actually felt I coped with it pretty well, with probably not getting the scores that I wanted. But, yeah, I felt pretty comfortable in the environment.”
JEREMY BLACKMORE / Photo: Getty Images