Rory Burns said last month that he had never been contacted by England and, on the basis of his 109* at The Ageas Bowl, it is difficult to see why.
After being the third leading run scorer in Division One in 2017 — and having passed 1,000 first-class runs for the past four seasons — Burns added to his 193 earlier this season with another excellent century on a day that started in calamity for Surrey but which ended with the visitors in command on 216-3.
Burns’ driving was exquisite, punching through the covers with ease. Throughout the morning, the ball swung when back of a length but full deliveries provided no lateral movement; pitching it up to the Surrey skipper was a sure-fire way of leaking runs. Seven of his boundaries came through the offside.
Having won the toss and chosen to bat against a Hampshire side missing Mason Crane through back pain and Liam Dawson unfit with a recurrence of a finger injury, Burns nudged a single from the first delivery of the game. The next four deliveries were a horror show.
Mark Stoneman, whose quest for a three-figure score is blighted by his inability to reach double figures, pushed at Fidel Edwards and edged to second slip for a two-ball duck.
Two balls later and Scott Borthwick was gone too, run out attempting to steal a single to Brad Taylor at cover from a direct hit. Hampshire dropped seven catches and missed a stumping on Wednesday; that didn’t look like being the case again.
Burns played in typical fashion, unhurried and unfazed by what he had seen at the other end. He was allowed to play almost exclusively on the front foot with bouncers a rarity, successfully pulling on one occasion he was forced back and miscuing on another. For all the pace and experience in Hampshire’s ranks, they bowled to Burns’ strengths.
With 623 Test wickets between them, Fidel Edwards, Dale Steyn, and Kyle Abbott were unable to dislodge him. Edwards bowled a superb spell to Ben Foakes just after lunch but having opened the morning with a tight spell, Steyn spent the afternoon looking ineffective and down on pace.
By the time he reached his century just before tea, from 135 balls, he had turned the first day on its head. Surrey head coach Michael Di Venuto said of Burns: “He’s still got a bit to do, I would have thought. Terrific innings and he’s a fantastic player, full stop. Hopefully he gets some recognition from higher honours down the track because he just keeps punching out runs.”
Performances like this one will certainly help his cause for an international spot.
Foakes had looked highly uncomfortable against Edwards, tempted into expansive drives with the ball swinging away from him out of the hand. But the 36-year-old’s age and injury record means he is used only in short bursts, and Foakes displayed his usual class once Edwards’ spell ended.
He took 12 from a Brad Taylor over as he moved to his fourth Specsavers County Championship half-century of the season. Foakes took until September for his first Surrey century in 2017; he ended the day 32 away from his fifth first-class hundred for the club.
Earlier, Ryan Patel shared a crucial 82-run stand with Burns to help recover from Surrey’s abysmal start. Like his captain, Patel did nothing extravagant and drove well, and appeared well-set before being trapped in front by Taylor.
Bad light curtailed play at 6pm after prior rain delays immediately after both intervals — with the ground’s scoreboard curiously displaying “Precipitation Situation” during the first stoppage.