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Burns must build on England innings after leading Lord’s recovery

B

en Stokes turns 30 on Friday, but a finger injury means he is not celebrating another milestone at Lord’s.

His absence — and, to a lesser extent, that of other team-balancing influences such as Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler — has many consequences on England’s side to face New Zealand.

The loss of Stokes requires a shift to the shape of the side and asks more of Joe Root — as a batter, tactician, motivator and even a bowler.

It has cost Jack Leach at least one Test cap and, as an uncontracted player, the associated income. Based on the turn found by Mitchell Santner on Thursday night, it has probably cost him a few Test wickets, too.

And it has thrust the recalled Rory Burns, playing just his 24th Test, into the role of senior batter.

Like Root, Burns is 30. The rest of England’s top seven are 25, 23, 23, 23 and 24. They arrived here having played 52 Tests between them. All of those who have played before — James Bracey is on debut — have had real highs in their short careers and could mature into a great batting line-up, but none is established in the side.

But nor is Burns. From his debut in Sri Lanka in 2018, he played 15 straight Tests and was going nicely enough.

An unfortunate football injury in Cape Town last January provided a little speed-bump, but he returned to the side as soon as he was available and, at the end of England’s series against West Indies last July, he was averaging 36 after 18 matches — creditable in a tricky era for opening batsmen. He was trending upwards, too.

England, however, have played nine Tests since then and Burns has barely made a mark.

First, he struggled against Pakistan; mainly with Shareen Shah Afridi’s left-arm excellence, but also with life in a suffocating biosecure bubble, which was perhaps exacerbated by being away from wife Victoria, who was pregnant with their first child.


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