All of this season so far, Burns has scored well as Surrey’s captain. He has become less solemn, more smiley, since the birth of his first child, which led to him missing the tour of Sri Lanka. He is playing for enjoyment, not as if cricket is the only thing in his world, but he enjoys nothing more than a scrap against short-pitched pace. At 30, Burns is a happy scrapper and, after this innings at Lord’s, his Test average exceeds his age, back to a respectable 32 by close of play.
Sibley and Zak Crawley had pleasant memories of New Zealand – before this match. In mid-November 2019, in a warm-up in Whangarei, their England careers began. So tall, and so self-assured for young batsmen, both scored centuries against a New Zealand XI before having to retire. They did not make many in the two-Test series but they were launched.
Sibley has become all too consistent in the wrong way since his defiance in the company of Joe Root set up England’s splendid victory in Chennai: since that 87 he has scored 16, 16, 3, 0, 7, 2, 3 and 0. Sibley did modify his technique during the winter, to become less chest-on, but he was still aiming to work Kyle Jamieson’s outswinger through midwicket.
Crawley, too, has become all too consistent since his 267 against Pakistan last summer. Left-arm spinners in Sri Lanka and India were first to cut the tall poppy down. Running down the pitch at the likes of Lasith Embuldeniya and Axar Patel, on turning pitches, would have thrilled the crowds in Canterbury Week pre-war but it was never “a business stroke”, as some of those sturdy England openers of yore would have said.
Crawley scored the most felicitous 50 in Ahmedabad as his one contribution of note to England’s winter, amid soft dismissals, which indicated substance in his soul. He is likened to Peter May by those who have seen them both, and beneath the affable exterior there was steel in PBH’s soul. He would never have excused being sucked and suckered into chasing an outswinger as Crawley did when tempted by Tim Southee.
In his nine innings since his double hundred, Crawley has made 104 runs, including that 53 in Ahmedabad. This is why James Bracey is in this England team, not with any view to replace Jos Buttler as wicketkeeper, but as backup in case one of Burns, Sibley and Crawley has to be replaced this summer.