The 28-year-old Surrey scrapper is the second batsman in the match with an unusual technique to make a ton but while he doesn’t have the natural gifts of first-day centurion Steve Smith he relied on patience and persistence, batting all day.
There was a good deal of luck, too: Burns would have been out lbw to Lyon for 21 had Australia reviewed a decision by umpire Joel Wilson, the third time in the Test Tim Paine’s side had been made to regret their hesitation in referring to technology.
There were some streaky shots and he played and missed a lot, especially during an anxious period before reaching the milestone, spending 37 minutes on 92 and 35 deliveries in the 90s, with Cummins beating him four times in one over and then Lyon twice outside off stump while he was stranded on 99.
But the left-hander held his nerve and when he pushed Lyon for a single to mid-on in the final 90 minutes of play – making his ground as Pattinson threw down the stumps – the relief was obvious.
At nearly seven hours in length and counting, it was the fourth century for an England opener since the last Ashes in 2017/18, and came after no shortage of scrutiny on the hosts’ top order, who were considered to be their weak link prior to the series. Those criticising Burns after his underwhelming display against Ireland at Lord’s had clearly not accounted for his deep reserves of determination.
“It was quite a slow wicket and quite an attritional wicket and in a silly way that kind of suits how I go about my business,” Burns said. “Hopefully I’ve still got a few more left in me and hopefully we’ve still got a few more in us.”
He combined in a 132-run partnership, the longest of the match, with Joe Root (57), who kept Australia at bay by playing late until a mistimed drive was snatched up in a sharp, one-handed catch by Siddle in his follow-through.
Root, who had been given out twice before he got to 15 and had the dismissals overturned by the DRS, was also on the right side of the most extraordinary piece of good fortune when on nine a Pattinson delivery clipped his off stump – only for the bails not to come off. Footage showed the stump and bail wobbled but held their ground.
“I was down on the ground when it happened and it made a funny noise,” said Australia’s team mentor Steve Waugh. “I wasn’t sure what it was. But that is just bad luck, you are a millimetre from taking a wicket. From a batting point of view you have to cash in on those moments. Maybe it was a sign that it wasn’t going to be our day.”
With Australia’s bowlers having toiled away, Siddle’s breakthrough return catch 25 minutes before tea gave them renewed spirits and after the interval they finally caught a break of their own via a replacement ball plucked out of the box of spares by umpires Wilson and Aleem Dar.
Unlike the behaviour of its predecessor, replaced after 60 overs of the innings, it swung immediately and Australia claimed two quick wickets, with Pattinson firstly having Joe Denly lbw for 18 with a ball that seamed back in before Cummins squared up Jos Buttler (5), whose leading edge was snaffled up in a smart, low catch by Cameron Bancroft at third slip.
The changed ball made life more difficult for Burns in his steady approach to three figures, too, but with the monkey off his back he chipped away further at Australia’s total of 284 and found another willing ally in Stokes.
Burns’ opening partner Jason Roy had earlier been out for 10 when he nicked Pattinson to Smith at second slip.
“I thought our boys really toiled well all day and it wasn’t easy,” Waugh said. “There were moments when we bowled really well and not much seemed to happen, then we played well in the afternoon.
“I really can’t fault our bowlers today or the effort in the field … early in the day [with] Pattinson hitting the stumps, maybe the referral we got wrong, we could have has them three or four down at lunch and it might’ve been a totally different day.”
Chris Barrett is Sports Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.