England new boy Rory Burns seeks help from legendary batsman Kumar Sangakkara for tour of Sri Lanka

1 Nov

England hopeful Rory Burns will draw on the experience of close friend Kumar Sangakkara as he bids to open the batting in Sri Lanka.

Burns, 28, earned his first Test call-up after captaining Surrey to their first County Championship title since 2002.

And as England prepare for life after Alastair Cook, a Test debut surely beckons in Galle next week.

Keaton Jennings and Joe Denly, the alternative options, continued to struggle in the first warm-up match while Burns hit a composed 47.

Burns impressed against the Sri Lanka Board XI in Colombo

His international opportunity has been a long time coming – the opener notched over 1000 first-class runs in 2018 for the fifth consecutive season.

England’s top order struggles have grown with the retirement of long-standing opener Cook and many see Burns as his natural successor.

But the Surrey man knows the unorthodoxy of Sri Lanka presents a totally different challenge to the County Championship, and to prepare, he picked the brains of someone who knows Sri Lankan cricket better than anybody.

Legendary batsman Sangakkara, Sri Lanka’s leading Test run scorer of all time, spent three years alongside Burns at Surrey, giving the Englishman an invaluable source of expertise.

Burns and Sangakkara are good mates

“Being able to learn off him and get to know him as a person on and off the park – that’s probably had a massive influence on me personally. I’ve taken up whisky drinking!” Burns joked.

“I think you’d be silly not to pick up the phone to Kumar and pick up a bit of knowledge there. He’s done a fair bit of batting in Sri Lanka.

“It’s being branded as trial by spin. Dean Elgar just got back from there and said he didn’t face a ball of seam. So I think it’s pretty evident what the challenges will be.”

The 28-year-old has big shoes to fill by replacing England’s highest Test run scorer of all time in Cook,  but he insists there are no nerves as his long-awaited chance approaches.

He added: “I’m not nervous, I think it’s really exciting. There’s a couple of other youngsters in the group which will help and I know quite a lot of the guys in that side.”

The conditions in Sri Lanka are completely foreign to Burns

Burns has his own ideas, too. The Epsom boy bewilders with an unusual approach to batting and admits you wouldn’t see his technique coached to youngsters.

He continued: “There are a few nuances to my style and it’s certainly my own. I don’t think you would coach many kids to bat like that.

“I’ve seen it work and tried to develop it over a period of time so there’s a lot of self belief and trust in my technique. I sort of enjoy the here say in a weird way.”

And the unique style has a personality to match. Burns is well-known for his eccentric hairstyles – the Becks of the County Championship, if you will.

“There’s been a beaver period, there’s been a top-knot – there’s been some certain stuff going on underneath the cap,” he added.

“I try and be a unique bloke rather than just run of the mill.”

talkSPORT will bring you exclusive radio coverage of England’s tour of Sri Lanka. More details here.