In a historically barren summer for Australian batting, newly recalled opener Joe Burns has ended a long drought of hundreds with a bright century against Sri Lanka in the second Test against Sri Lanka.
Burns reached the milestone from 147 balls and hit 16 boundaries in his century. In an untroubled partnership with Travis Head, who also hit a century, the innings restored Australia to a position of comfort in the match after it lost the wickets of Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne cheaply on the first morning.
While Australia had easily won the previous Test against Sri Lanka, it had gone a remarkable 113 days without a Test century after struggling mightily in an away series against Pakistan and a home loss to India.
The previous ton was Khawaja’s masterpiece of defiance in Dubai, back in October.
That's tea! Joe Burns is unbeaten on 107, while Head is nine runs away from a maiden Test ton.
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) February 1, 2019
Burns now has four Test centuries since his debut in 2014
The century was Burns’ fourth in just 16 Tests, a good return for a player who has never cemented his place in the team and whose career has attracted relatively little fanfare.
Going into the test, Burns had an average of 35.92, comparable with most of the top and middle-order batsmen Australia has rotated in and out of the side in a period of tumult.
He has been especially prolific in the first innings of Test matches, where he averages 64.14 and has made four of his eight half-centuries.
In Australia’s domestic four-day competition, the Sheffield Shield, he had accumulated 472 runs at 47.20, making a strong, if hardly overwhelming, case for his return to the team. There was some concern over whether his technique, particularly an extravagant-looking backlift, was tight enough at this level, but his century against an injury-depleted Sri Lankan attack has been an all too rare example this summer of an Australian player batting time.
— Adam Collins (@collinsadam) February 1, 2019
Joe Burns has pushed his claims for a spot on the much-anticipated Ashes tour
The innings now looms as a pivotal moment in Burns’ international career, which looked to have stalled, and is likely to be persuasive to selectors when they choose players for the upcoming Ashes series.
England is the strong favourite for the Ashes series, which begins on 1 August. They have the twin advantages of playing the series at home and facing an Australian team likely to be still searching for its best XI. Australia’s two best batsman, Steve Smith and Dave Warner, will both be available for selection after serving lengthy suspensions for their part in the ball-tampering scandal.
England have had their own struggles in recent times, however, and were skittled for 187 by the eighth-ranked West Indies team just a week after being overwhelmed by 382 runs in Barbados.