With Steve Smith and David Warner set to return to the Australian side for the Ashes later this year, question marks were hanging over the future of certain players. Joe Burns was one of them.
After all, during his short 16-match Test career so far, he has been dropped four times. But his unbeaten 172 at the Manuka Oval on the opening day of the second Test against Sri Lanka on Friday, seem to have sealed his spot. And, he is not done yet. A double hundred is there for the taking on day two in front of a sellout crowd.
The Queenslander has been rated quite highly in Australia. His personality and game are similar to his childhood hero Mark Waugh — laid-back and elegant to watch when on song. Burns won the Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year award in 2013 and a year later went on to make his Test debut on the Boxing Day against India.
But, his has been a stop-start career, often missing out on opportunities when established players return from injury or getting chances when there is a crisis in Australian cricket like in South Africa last year, where he was one of the players called up along with Matt Renshaw and Glenn Maxwell after Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft were sent home for the ball-tampering saga.
In his first two Tests, Burns batted in the middle-order at No 6 as Australia had a steady opening combination in Warner and Chris Rogers. Despite making two half-centuries in his second game, the New Year Test in Sydney in 2015, Burns was overlooked for the away series against West Indies and the Ashes.
After Australia's unsuccessful Ashes campaign in 2015, there was another opening for Burns as there were some high profile retirements. Michael Clarke, Chris Rogers, Shane Watson and Brad Haddin were all gone. Burns was named for the series in Bangladesh later that year but he was once again forced to wait patiently as Cricket Australia cancelled the tour in the 11th hour due to security concerns.
His return to the side against New Zealand in the summer of 2015 was remarkable. Playing on the home turf at the Gabba, Burns posted 71 in the first innings before smashing 129 runs in the second essay. This was not at number six but at top of the order as Rogers retirement freed up the opening spot.
It seemed Warner had found the perfect partner as the openers added 161 runs in the first innings and were even better second time around posting 237. Australia's top-order looked settled as Burns made big hundreds over the next seven games.
Then came the tour of Sri Lanka which proved to be his undoing. Australia were thrashed 3-0 as he struggled against Rangana Herath. The dust bowls of Galle and Kandy was too much for someone who had been brought up on the hard and bouncy surfaces of Gabba. He managed 32 runs in four innings and was axed for the final Test in Colombo.
After the one-off Test in South Africa, having come in to manage the crisis after the sandpaper gate, he lost out again as Australia tried out different combinations.
For the series against Pakistan in UAE, the selectors backed Aaron Finch, a proven white-ball cricketer with Usman Khawaja promoted as the opener. As that combination didn't quite provide results, Marcus Harris was tried alongside Finch for the home series against India and finally for the clash against the Sri Lankans, Burns was recalled to the side.
On Friday, he had his share of luck. Dropped by Dhananjaya de Silva on 34, he now has his name written in the record books as the first man to score a Test hundred at Mauka Oval.
This has been a tough summer for Australia. They lost a first-ever series to India at home and runs were so difficult to come by that across five Test matches, no Australian had posted a hundred.
By Friday afternoon, the famine turned into a feast as Travis Head joined Burns in scoring a century. Both batsmen accumulated runs at breakneck speed against a second string Sri Lankan attack as Australia scored at a rate of 4.4 runs per over thanks to the duo.
With an Ashes spot most likely secured, Burns will now head to Lancashire to play county cricket. He is set to play some 15 first-class games before the business end of the summer starts and there won't be a better preparation for the Ashes.
Four hundreds and four fifties after 16 Tests is pretty decent stats and you could feel that his best is yet to come.
There are many facets to Burns' life. Last year he dedicated the winter trying to produce a surf wear clothing product with a friend. With educational degrees in finance and business, Burns is one of the smartest blokes around in Australian cricket. And, given Australia's recent struggles in international cricket, they are in need of smart and steady men like Burns more than ever before.