Burns and Khawaja prove they belong

Date: November 7, 2015 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

KhawajaSteve Smith could barely have wished for a better day in his first at the helm of his new side. It started with the toss and ended with a scorecard of 2-389, the biggest first day total in the history of Tests at the Gabba.

Smith (41no) and his newly anointed deputy, David Warner (163) did what Smith and Warner normally do – score runs while looking largely unfazed in the process.

Yet, in essence, the day was not so much about the ‘old hands’ but the recycled newbies. For Queenslander Joe Burns and his Islamabad-born, Sydney-raised Bulls teammate Usman Khawaja it loomed as a potential make or break day. In the end both their stock prices rose dramatically.

Burns, in his third Test and first since the SCG Test against India in the opening week of the year, strode to the middle to open the innings with Warner.

Both were cautious early as they assayed what was expected to be Australia’s biggest threat of the summer, the swing of Tim Southee and Trent Boult.

Burns took 20 balls to open his account, and while he attested to a severe bout of nerves early on when interviewed after the day’s play, his technique and outward composure belied that fact.

The thing usually most evident when a batsman is beset by nerves is his footwork but Burns moved with confidence and authority before finally getting off the mark with the first boundary of the series.

From that point he continued to build his innings in a no nonsense fashion save for a near suicidal run before he had reached double figures.

As his fluency improved you started to wonder how in fact he was actually dropped after the first Test of the year.

That question was further pondered when he reached his 50 as it gave him three half centuries on the trot albeit with a gap of ten months and seven Tests between his second and third.

Throughout the opening stand he and Warner appeared to take it in turns to move the scoreboard along. A wane by one was met by a flurry by the other.

Where Burns scored many of his runs against India with dabs and pushes he was far more assured today with his cover driving and square cutting a feature. Sadly, it ended for him on 71 when he nicked a full away swinger from Southee.

Burns left the middle with his highest Test score but no doubt rueing the fact that he could not reach three figures.

From the time he opened his account to the time he fell he faced 100 balls and never looked anything other than comfortable. One wonders if he had not made that century for the CA XI against the Black Caps in the national capital last week whether he would have played ahead of the uncapped Cameron Bancroft who many thought up until then was across the line.

Burns demise cued Khawaja’s return. This is his tenth Test, his first in 26 months and his first on home soil since December 2011. He spent a large slab of his time between Test appearances in rehab after a training mishap a day before his 28th birthday last December resulted in a full knee reconstruction.

Not all sportsmen have complication free recoveries but thankfully Khawaja was able to return ahead of schedule and unhindered.

It was a luxury to take guard with the score at 1-161 but it would not likely have lessened the pounding in Khawaja’s chest.

While Burns was slow to get going Khawaja was the opposite as he reached double figures off just eight balls. He displayed deft and decisive footwork to the spin of Mark Craig and a straight blade to the quicks.

His trademark pull shot found the pickets regularly while his two off-side sixes off Craig were exquisite.

Even the nineties failed to dull Khawaja’s stroke play as he sailed through them with three boundaries. His resultant celebration on reaching a maiden Test ton was no doubt a combination of joy and relief.

Both those emotions would have been felt by his skipper at the other end of the pitch and the four selectors who recalled him from the wilderness.

Khawaja has the chance today to turn his unbeaten 102 into something far greater.

One swallow does not make a summer nor does a single innings make a career. But, for Burns and Khawaja, their efforts on day one at the Gabba has bought them the time they need to further consolidate a place high atop Australia’s order.

And from what they displayed yesterday they are both destined to be around a lot longer than there last incarnations.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 6 November 2015, soliciting 37 comments