Rory Burns is not taking a long-awaited Test debut for granted after arriving on his first England tour in Sri Lanka.
The Surrey captain knows better than most what it is like to wait for an opportunity, putting together five years of consistent run-scoring at domestic level before finally being recognised by the selectors.
Now, having led his county to a first championship title in 16 years and topped the Division One scoring charts, he has been given a chance to fill England’s problem position at opener, a role the last 12 candidates have failed to hold down.
Alastair Cook’s retirement has left a blank canvas at the top of the order, with Burns, Keaton Jennings and Joe Denly all eager to make their mark.
All three are likely to get their chance next week, when a pair of two-day warm-up matches will provide the proving ground ahead of the first Test in Galle.
“Just because you get in the squad doesn’t mean you just get handed a Test opportunity, it’s about working hard for it,” Burns told Test Match Special after a draining midday net session alongside England’s other five-day specialists.
“It’s about getting your skills right in practice and showcasing them in the two games ahead. I’ve tried to do my best in county cricket, churn the runs, and now I’ve been afforded an opportunity it’s up to me to take it.
“I’d be absolutely delighted to play. It’s every young boy’s dream, getting picked for a Test match.
“My old man would tell you I’ve wanted it from a very young age, from about two years old getting my brothers out in the garden.”
Burns has limited experience in sub-continental conditions but is likely to face a steep learning curve. The ball spins early and lavishly in this part of the world, nowhere more so than Galle, and spinners are regularly seen taking the new
For a player brought up at the Oval, home comforts are few and far between. And so Burns has sought counsel from two of Surrey’s recent international stars, although he suspects one may have had divided loyalties.
“Dean Elgar was our overseas player this year and I had a few chats with him after he was out here with South Africa, he said how you’ve really got to earn the chance to face a ball of seam.
“I think it’s a mindset thing in terms of game plans and technique, that’s the challenge out here.
“And I had dinner with Kumar Sangakkara the other night, discussing bits and pieces…I think he’s been trying to work for Sri Lanka, I think he’s a bit of a double agent!
“I learned a lot off him (in the) last three years at Surrey and it’s great to have a bloke like him as a sounding board.”