Poetic justice for Burns as Bulls dominate day one

Bulls rip through SA top-order before rain intervenes

Across a 12-year career as a Test and first-class opener, Joe Burns has faced some of the game’s fastest and fiercest with new ball in hand, and has rarely flinched.

But the 33-year-old conceded he found himself on the verge of tears at the start of today’s Marsh Sheffield Shield match against South Australia in which he made his 100th Shield appearance for the Bulls.

It wasn’t the prospect of facing up on a cloudy and damp Adelaide morning that caught the right-hander off guard, but rather the heartfelt words from teammate and Test leg spinner Mitchell Swepson who penned and read a poem to mark the milestone.

Swepson admitted the words that so moved his teammate were originally intended to be something far more light-hearted in keeping with his role as the designated presenter of Queensland’s ‘joke of the day’ which habitually precedes the start of play.

“It doesn’t have to be a joke for itselfit can be a fun fact, it can be whatever you want it to be and I thought I’d do something for Burny’s hundredth,” Swepson told cricket.com.au at day’s end.

“He’s done poems in the past, so I thought I’d go down that path and started out wanting to make it a bit of a joke and a bit of fun but the more I wrote I thought ‘this is getting a bit more serious than I expected’ and I just ran with it.

“When I started reading it, I definitely didn’t think that (Burns would become emotional).

“But after reading, it at the end I thought ‘you know what, I think it’s pretty fitting’ and I knew he’d enjoy it.

“We always joke about not trying to pump up his tires too much, but I thought today was probably the one day we could do that.

“I wrote it in about an hour last night around 9pm.

Burns and Swepson embrace during his cap presentation // Getty
Burns and Swepson embrace during his cap presentation // Getty

“He’s already said to me he wants to have it sent to him and framed up, so I’ve turned into bloody Rupert McCall (the acclaimed sports poet) overnight.

“I’ve done poems before, but they’ve been more funny, joke-type things to get the boys up and about and going for the day.

“But I ended up writing this one and it got serious on me.

“I thought it would be a nice way to start his day and he seemed to love it, so it was a good idea in the end I think.”

The sense of occasion was heightened by the presence Jimmy Maher, Martin Love and Wade Seccombe – three of the 12 other Queensland players to have passed the 100-Shield game benchmark – as well as another former Bulls legend, Ian Healy.

Maher and Healy were at the ground as part of a corporate event for sponsors of the hugely successful Bulls Masters program, with a further 20 or so maroon-wearing fans on hand as competitors in the national over-50s carnival being staged in Adelaide this week .

Seccombe (coach) and Love (physiotherapist) are mainstays with the current Queensland team, and there was a genuine feel of Burns being a crowd favorite given the visitors’ fans outnumbered locals by two to one when play began.

And for a while it seemed feasible they might be treated to the sight of Burns batting by mid-afternoon even though stand-in skipper Jimmy Peirson had opted to bowl first upon winning the toss.

But despite the Redbacks suffering another dismal batting implosion that left them 5-25 shortly before lunch, the rain that regularly blew through on an icy wind, coupled with lower-order resistance from Harry Nielsen (32no) and Ben Manenti (33no) meant Burns’s turn at the crease had to wait.

He did take a smart catch at second slip to remove Daniel Drew, one of Xavier Bartlett’s three wickets from 10 immaculate overs prior to lunch before SA went on to finish a soggy day one 6-107 with only five deliveries bowled after tea.

However, given the weather conditions that brought four separate rain delays that cost almost 40 overs, it’s safe to assume today won’t live long in Burns’s memory beyond the pre-game ceremony where he was presented with a new maroon cap with ‘100’ embroidered on the back.

It was an even more forgettable occasion for the home team, whose innings defeat at the hands of Western Australia in Perth last week led coach Jason Gillespie to claim the Redbacks continue to be “disappointing” and at times “poor”.

His assessment after today’s truncated was similarly blunt, noting: ‘The surface was exactly what we expected, so there’s no excuses there.”

“It offered a little bit of assistance which is what happens on day one of a Shield game with a new cricket ball.

‘We just have to find ways to get through those periods, and we just haven’t done that today.”

He might have hoped for better returns given Queensland was almost fielding a second XI, with captain Usman Khawaja (Test preparations), batter Marnus Labuschagne (ODI team), pace pair Michael Neser and Mark Steketee (PM’s XI) and all-rounder Jack Wildermuth (recovering from quad strain) all absent.

The loss of Neser (24 wickets at 11.83 this season) and Steketee (23 at 13.86) was clearly not sufficient to make Peirson think about batting first, and he was proved unerringly correct as Bartlett and James Bazley (2-13 in the morning session ) ran amok.

The rout started in the day’s first over from Bartlett who accounted for recalled SA opener Jake Carder with his fourth delivery.

Carder had lost his place in the struggling Redbacks XI after scores of 15, 10, 13 and 10 at number three, but today’s innings comprised a huge lbw shout, followed by an edge just short of third slip and a flayed edge over the cordon for a boundary, before he nicked off to first slip.

Drew, who has taken over at first-drop, added a second consecutive duck when he was snared by Burns moving smartly to his right and SA’s in-form top-order batter Nathan McSweeney also failed to score when Bartlett snaffled a low return catch.

When SA’s stand-in skipper Jake Lehmann – whose dad, Darren, was among the Bull Masters crew watching on – holed out to point, SA was 4-19 which became 5-25 when opener Jake Weatherald’s 90-minute battle ended on 12 upon feathering a catch behind.

Thomas Kelly, playing his first Shield game of the season and just the second of his career, showed sufficient temperament and talent in his 64-ball stay to suggest he will retain his place.

But it was not until the unbeaten 60-run stand between Nielsen and Manenti in a fleeting burst of sunshine before the rain returned immediately after tea that ensured the Redbacks would reach triple-figures and Burns’ wouldn’t be required to bat until tomorrow.

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