He reached the milestone during the course of his first-innings 30 against West Indies at the Ageas Bowl, crossing four figures early on the second morning. The Surrey skipper’s idiosyncratic style is not necessarily the most pleasing to the eye, but his aesthetic value bears no relevance to his effectiveness at the top of the England order. If anything, his unique way of playing has served to blunt most of those he’s faced, and this is certainly demonstrated by the statistics.
Stats: Rory Burns vs Cook’s partners since Strauss
By almost every metric, Burns’ stats are superior to those who partnered Cook since Andrew Strauss’ retirement in 2012. Keaton Jennings, the only player to have played a similar number of matches (17 compared to Burns’ 16), has faced over 460 fewer balls in his career as an England opener. Burns also has eight scores of 50 or more facing the new ball (two tons and six fifties), in contrast with Alex Hales and Mark Stoneman’s five (with no hundreds) and Joe Root, Jennings and Nick Compton’s three. Beyond those names, no other opener prior to Burns and since Strauss has more than two scores of 50 plus.
When comparing the left-hander’s average of 33.63 to his recent predecessors, only Root, who opened in a mere six games, has a better record. Out of the 13 players who were selected to open the batting prior to Burns, only Haseeb Hameed and Compton averaged more than 30, adding further credence to the idea that his current record, though modest overall, deserves acclaim by modern standards.
How does Burns compare to England openers from days gone by?
After the same number of games, Chris Broad, heralded for his glorious performances during the 1986/87 Ashes, had scored 1,145 runs at an average of 42.40 with a top score of 162. Atherton had notched up 1,136 after 16 matches, at 39.17 runs per dismissal with three tons and seven fifties. Graham Gooch, had a decidedly average record after 16 games, managing only 644 runs with no hundreds at an average of 28. However his protégé, Cook, has a far more impressive record at the same stage: 1,249 runs with five hundreds and four fifties at an average at 46.25. Cook’s longest-serving partner, Strauss, has even better numbers: 1,416 runs, five tons and five fifties at an average of 50.57.
Overall, among England openers with more than 1,000 runs only WG Grace, whose Test career ended in 1899, and Mark Butcher average less than Rory Burns does currently. However the challenges of opening the batting in England since Strauss retired must not be ignored. Comparing Burns’ record (33.23 runs per dismissal) to those with a minimum of five Tests in England over this period further illuminates the credit he is due. For example, Dimuth Karunaratne – ranked 14th in the ICC Test Batting Rankings – averages just 28.44 in England; David Warner, 26.91; Shikhar Dhawan, 20.28.