In the age of the Twenty20 and agricultural stroke-play, Joe Burns is of the rare, endangered breed of openers with an airtight, orthodox technique. Trigger movement – check, plays in the …
In the age of the Twenty20 and agricultural stroke-play, Joe Burns is of the rare, endangered breed of openers with an airtight, orthodox technique. Trigger movement – check, plays in the V – check, off-stump awareness – check. Joe Burns shot into the limelight on Shield debut, composing a mature 140 against South Australia in 2010/11. He continued his good form with the bat in the subsequent years, and was named the Bradman Young Cricketer in 2013. A calm and focused man, Burns clearly didn’t let this accolade get to his head, and made a 114 in a tour game for Australia A against the touring English side soon after. To further enhance his resume, he made 793 runs at 52.86 in the Sheffield Shied season that followed.
At this point, it was simply too difficult for the selectors to ignore him, especially with Chris Rogers on the wrong side of the 30s, set to retire. As expected, he was handed a Test debut against India on the back of progressively good Sheffield seasons, and forced his way into the Australian side with the sheer weight of runs, to complement David Warner’s aggression with solidity at the other end.
He scored two fifties in his second Test outing in Sydney against India. However, he was unfortunately dropped for the upcoming series against the West Indies and England, with some of the injured regulars returning to the side. Burns continued to pile on the runs in domestic cricket and became a regular in the Test side after the retirement of Chris Rogers, scoring his maiden Test century at the Gabba, his home-ground, against New Zealand in 2015. He continued his impressive form with the bat and essayed a typically chanceless 128 against the West Indies at the MCG and a career-best 170 against their Tasman rivals New Zealand at Christchurch.
A poor couple of Tests in Sri Lanka in 2016 led to his unfortunate axing from the team, instigating Usman Khawaja to make the infamous ‘scapegoat’ comment. He made a comeback in the Hobart Test against South Africa and made a 1 and a duck in the match. Three runs in 4 Test innings is not becoming of a batsman of Burns’ caliber. Nonetheless, Burns continued to impress in domestic cricket, making his maiden first-class double-century in December 2017.
In early 2018, the ‘Sandpapergate’ happened and one of the beneficiaries of it was Burns as Cameron Bancroft was one among the three who were handed out bans for ball-tampering in a Test in Cape Town. Burns played the final game of that series and returned with numbers of 4 and 42 at Johannesburg. Australia though lost that game pretty badly. Then in the home summer, Burns got his moment under the sun against the touring Lankans. He tallied his career-best score of 180 at Canberra to ensure Bancroft’s re-entry won’t be an easy one. Despite that ton, Burns was ignored for the 2019 Ashes.
However, despite being technically correct and playing late against the moving ball, he has, at times, struggled against abrupt seam movement on green, skiddy tracks. This has been attributed to his high back-lift, owing to his relatively lean physique and lack of upper-body strength. It follows that Burns puts his body-weight behind his strokes to generate power, as opposed to playing punchy, fore-arm shots, due to his inability to generate enough power off his fore-arms. He has tried to correct this in recent times, having put on a significant amount of muscle-mass and a noticeably lower back-lift. This is quite clearly observable in his back-lift, as his bat now comes down from between the first slip and the wicket-keeper, rather than from gully, meaning he requires relatively less assistance from his wrists. This makes him less likely to commit to the line early and play check-drives when tested with quality seam bowling.
He remains one of the few contemporary players to be equally effective in all three formats. He top-scored with a blazing 43 in the relatively low-scoring final of the 2012/13 edition of the Big Bash League. He continues to play for the Brisbane Heat and has become a mainstay in the middle-order over the last four years, having made 697 runs across seasons at an average of 29, making him the second-highest run-scorer for the franchise.