Burns' maiden ton puts England in command
Australia's lead dwindles to 17 as dogged opener bats through day two to be unbeaten on 125 at stumps
Andrew Ramsey at Edgbaston
3 August 2019, 07:00 AM AEST
The dual benevolence of England's selectors and Australia's on-field brains trust allowed opener Rory Burns to post a maiden Test century that put his team marginally ahead in the Ashes opener at Edgbaston.
Burns was at risk of being omitted from England's starting XI after recording a pair of failures in their historic one-off Test against Ireland last week, which whittled his batting average to barely 22 from seven matches.
But the panel held their nerve, and today he defied Australia's vaunted attack and several changes of ball for almost seven hours to post an unbeaten 125.
His effort led England to 4-267 at the close of day two, 17 runs behind Australia's day-one total of 284 and eyeing a sizeable first-innings lead.
While Burns was a model of patience in his discipline with his unfashionably idiosyncratic technique, he would have been dismissed for 21 shortly after the day's first drinks break if Australia had reviewed a shout for lbw from spinner Nathan Lyon.
Despite Lyon's vociferous roar, the cursory chat among the tourists yielded no call for third-umpire examination and the evidence that showed ball striking Burns' leg stump was therefore not presented.
It was one of several moments of contention that fell in the host nation's favour, although England fans felt their team had been wronged when Australia successfully complained the ball had lost shape after 60 overs and a replacement was summoned.
It became immediately obvious the substitute version, which appeared a deeper red and sported more obvious sheen, was prone to swing whereas its predecessor had shown little propensity to veer off the straight.
Within six overs of the swap being made, England lost key batters Joe Denly (18) and Jos Buttler (5) as they lapsed to 4-194 before the status quo was returned and Burns, along with World Cup hero Ben Stokes (an ominously confident 38 not out from 71 balls), took the final hour's honours.
Australia will return to the bowling crease on Saturday with the second new ball (as opposed to the earlier second new-old ball) having seen nine overs, and hoping for brighter fortune than they enjoyed today.
The forecast cloud cover failed to materialise for much of Friday which was, instead, played amid mostly bright sunshine.
As a consequence, skipper Tim Paine was compelled to call on the services of part-timers Matthew Wade and Travis Head for a few overs as England closed in on a first-innings lead in the late afternoon.
And despite routinely beating the outside and inside edges of England's top-order who were dogged but rarely dominant, it ended as a batters' day which stood in marked contrast to day one and the opening act of day two.
The breakthrough Australia so keenly sought after England resumed at 0-10 arrived in the day's sixth over, when James Pattinson had opener Jason Roy snared low at second slip by Steve Smith.
It was Pattinson's first Test wicket for more than three years, his previous success coming against New Zealand at Christchurch in February 2016 before he succumbed to another serious back injury.
But the celebratory huddle that formed around the 29-year-old who has fought such an epic battle to reclaim his Test place gradually gave way to frustration and then exasperation as England took charge.
It was a shift that unfolded slowly, and in the initial stages not altogether surely.
Burns had reached 12 when he reacted late to avoid a Pat Cummins bouncer that skimmed his protective helmet and scorched away to the fine leg boundary.
As is the requirement in such circumstances, the opener was immediately fitted with a new lid but after a brief chat with England's medical staff the prospect of him entering Test cricket trivia as the first player substituted out of a game through concussion was averted.
The left-hander enjoyed even greater fortune soon after when he pushed forward against Lyon, with umpire Aleem Dar's assessment that the ball was sliding past leg stump was seemingly shared by the fielding team.
When television replays subsequently showed the ball would have struck leg stump and the obdurate opener should have been gone for 21, Australia had effectively missed another trick.
There was, however, nothing other than wretched fortune to account for Root's survival after he was given out caught behind off Pattinson on nine.
The England captain had laboured more than an hour for his handful and had not managed a boundary when he played inside the line to a delivery that yielded a discernible noise as it flashed passed the bat.
The fact that Root instantly called for a review the moment umpire Joel Wilson raised his finger indicated at least one person on the field knew what the source of that sound wasn't.
It took several replays to reveal the fleeting, woody clunk was caused by ball brushing Root's off stump, with sufficient velocity to leave the peg wobbling but not enough contact to prise the bails from their deep grooves.
Similar occurrences during the recent World Cup were attributed to the extra weight carried by bails fitted with impact-sensitive flashing lights, but no such illumination could be blamed for (or shed upon) the failure of a bowler pushing 150kph to break the wicket.
Root's blessed run continued after lunch, by which time Burns had posted his maiden Ashes half-century as he grew increasingly assured.
For a second time, Root was given out only for the decision to be immediately overturned on review.
In contrast to the first reprieve, it came because the skipper had got an edge to the ball from Peter Siddle which rendered redundant the lbw verdict that umpire Dar had passed.
Come the day's mid-point, England had ground their way to 1-124 in markedly different manner to their opponents who were 8-122 at the same time a day earlier.
But soon after Root reached his 42nd Test half-century, he provided further ammunition for critics who highlight his conversion rate (he has 16 centuries) when stacked against other top-flight batters such as Steve Smith (24 hundreds and as many fifties) and India's Virat Kohli (25 tons and 20 half-centuries).
Sharp catch from Peter Siddle! 🙌 #Ashes pic.twitter.com/iJnIVVTuAQ— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) August 2, 2019
Root's luck ran dry on 57 when, having so diligently dropped his hands to kill the pace on many of the 118 previous balls he faced, he pushed hard at a full delivery from Siddle that appeared to hold slightly in the pitch.
Or maybe his timing was ever-so-slightly askew.
Regardless of the reason, the half-chance that resulted was snared by Siddle who flung out his right hand amidst his follow-through to claim the opportunist wicket his team so sorely needed.
It was a rare moment of triumph in a day that belonged, on balance, to England.
Australia XI: David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Matt Wade, Tim Paine (c), James Pattinson, Pat Cummins, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon
England XI: Rory Burns, Jason Roy, Joe Root (c), Joe Denly, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, James Anderson
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Moeen Ali, Jimmy Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Olly Stone, Chris Woakes.
Tour match: Australians v Worcestershire, August 7-9
Second Test: August 14-18,Lord's
Third Test: August 22-26, Headingley
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval