Rory has risen from the Ashes

Updated: Aug 05, 2019, 08:51 IST | Ian Chappell

Like Steven Smith, England batsman Burns is leg-side-oriented, but he's also emulated the ex-Australian skipper's grit and determination

Rory has risen from the Ashes
England batsman Rory Burns cuts one to the boundary during Day Two of the opening Test against Australia at Edgbaston last week. Pic /Getty Images

Ian Chappell

A productive batting order is not something that is reached by pulling names out of a hat or throwing darts at a board to decide each player's position.

The ideal batting order is reached by the captain putting batsmen in the order that best suits their technique and style, as well as allocating them a slot where they feel comfortable. If a player's style and technique is suited to a certain slot but he's not comfortable batting there, then the skipper has to produce his most convincing argument to achieve what is best for the team.

In the first Ashes Test, both Joe Root and Steve Smith were capable of batting at number three. Both players have been reluctant to hold down the first drop position but eventually, Root decided it was best for the team if he batted three.

What Root did by batting at three at Edgbaston was effectively stabilise the England top-order. His calm and proactive approach to batting finally ended England's long-running top-order collapses where they quickly slid to three down for less than 50.

If Root stabilised the top order it was Rory Burns who, like Smith the day before, provided the solid foundation for the innings. Burns is like Smith in that he's not pretty to watch and he's leg-side-oriented but he also emulated the ex-Australian skipper's grit and determination to survive.

Burns finally shed his inhibitions and overcame the twin failures against Ireland to play a substantial Test inning. The difference between Burns against Ireland and the player who opened against Australia was palpable and his solidarity allowed England to prosper on a day when runs were hard-earned.

The previous day, Smith had performed a similar yet even more difficult task as he resurrected the innings by hauling his team from the depths of 122-8 to a respectable 284 all out.

Smith may no longer be captain, but he's made it clear that his preference is to bat at four. He underlined his feelings by playing a great Test inning which eventually blossomed into a dominant one. In employing his quirky, ugly duckling [but highly successful] technique to amass more than half of Australia's runs he also amply displayed his grit and mental toughness. Smith is a highly successful international batsman because he understands his own game and sticks to his guns no matter what anyone else says about his style.

Before his 12-month ban, it appeared that international bowlers were completely at a loss as how to dismiss Smith. On the evidence of Edgbaston, the opportunity to spend 12 months plotting his downfall hasn't led England to any meaningful conclusions.

Like England so many times before, Australia was quickly 35-3 in their first innings. Would Australia be better off with Smith at three? Undoubtedly, it's far better to avoid early collapses by short-circuiting them quickly.

However, Tim Paine's problem is producing the convincing argument that will cause Smith to overcome his misgivings and follow Root's example. While Root will be disappointed that once again he didn't convert a solid start, at least his innings will have helped eradicate any negative thoughts he might have held about elevating himself in the order.

There's no doubt that both batting orders in this series are flawed and facing very good bowlers with a Dukes ball in their hand is going to be an on-going challenge. This suggests that runs are going to be at a premium throughout the series and that moderate scores could well be the order of the day.

If that does occur then more than likely it'll be a tight series which will be great for the fans but a strenuous test for the players. With that in mind, it could be crucial to get the batsmen in their right order to maximise the team's chances of victory. England, thanks to their captain, has taken the first step in the right direction.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is one of cricket's most influential voices

The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper

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