Rory Burns' calamitous run-out was damning - but entirely predictable

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Rory Burns is run out by Marnus Labuschagne - SHUTTERSTOCK
Rory Burns is run out by Marnus Labuschagne - SHUTTERSTOCK

Whatever you might think about Rory Burns’ batting, whether it be his technique, his mentality or his attitude, you cannot but have felt a smidgen of pity as he trudged off the field, an opener run out for a duck for just the third time in Ashes history.

There was a neat symmetry to things too, because hovering around the dugout as Burns made his way was the only other man to have suffered the same fate this century. Simon Katich, now long retired and in a crisp navy suit readying for a stint on television, had been run out in the first over of the 2010-11 Ashes Test in Adelaide, an event which precipitated both a thumping England win and a memorable series victory.

Perhaps he offered a few words of sympathy, perhaps not, because any positive feeling towards the beleaguered England opener was in short supply. Ricky Ponting, who followed Katich next ball in that Adelaide Test (not run out), was scathing in his analysis.

"I want to make a bit of a point of this,” the former Australia captain said on Channel Seven. "There had to be more desperation there from Rory Burns. He's back into the side, fighting for his Test career, and he's not willing to put in a big dive to try and save his wicket.

"I know it's not his fault, not his call. But you can imagine Marnus Labuschagne in that same situation, he would've been diving from two or three yards out from the crease."

Labuschagne, arguably, had made more of an effort diving, in vain, for a ball colliding into the boundary rope just before than Burns had. The enthusiasm, the effort, the will to win was all there among this Australian side, looking to make amends after their dreams of a 5-0 whitewash had been whipped from underneath them in the dying sessions of the Sydney Test.

To an extent, you can understand the convergent moods. The series is long gone, the hammering has been both public and harrowing and England’s men walking to the crease, each day, facing the same fate, are but human. On the flip side, however, there is so much to play for. Forget about the pride and the England badge, which so often gets churned out as a tired media line, but there are, as Ponting says, careers on the line.

Which makes Burns’ dismissal all the more disappointing. At 31 years of age and as many Test caps to his name, as well as averaging the same, he is a senior member of this England side. On a tour which goes as wildly awry as this, Root needs as many of those members contributing, on the field and off it, as he can get. He has been sorely let down. Burns cannot afford to have an attitude problem as well as a performance one, not at this juncture in his career and with more ducks than fifties in the last year.

The case for Burns's defence is that he will not have expected to play again this tour. And he really should not have: he has had no opportunity to play himself back into form, no tour matches to rebuild confidence.

Instead, he has had to resort to throw-downs in nets and Ben Stokes holding a camera phone from the umpire’s position. So rudimentary had it become that he even had local children taunting him as he received half-volley after half-volley in the Hobart Tests preceding this match. This is not a man in a position to open the batting against the world’s top-ranked Test bowler and the best with a pink ball in hand.

Burns’ predicament is indicative of England’s ongoing issues with finding a settled opening partnership. Australia’s last wicket partnership has now outscored England’s first in this series.

Perhaps that Burns found himself called for a run that was touch and go at best is not all that surprising; this is the first time Zak Crawley and Burns have opened the batting together. In this tour alone there have been three different opening combinations.

“If you bat with someone over a long period of time you get the understanding... Burns nor Crawley had that,” lamented Mark Butcher on BT Sport.

The run was a tight call, and a fine margin. But that’s what can launch or lampoon a cricketer’s career. If Burns didn’t know that this morning, he must now. The only difference being that he’s only got one more innings to do something about it.

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