Claiming the LV= County Championship Breakthrough Player of the Year award puts Rory Burns in the esteemed company of last season’s inaugural winner Joe Root - and the Surrey man now aims to continue following in the England batsman’s path.
Burns fought off stiff competition to pick up the prize last week, including Northamptonshire all-rounder David Willey and England’s newest recruit Gary Ballance, both of whom will be touring Australia with England squads this winter.
Although beating Ballance to the prize just days after the Zimbabwe-born left-hander was named in this winter’s Ashes touring party may have come as a surprise to Burns, the 23-year-old Surrey batsman, who clocked up 917 first-class runs at an average of 35.26 this summer, is eager to join him and Root at the top level at the earliest possible opportunity.
"If I can try and emulate what Joe has done next year – that would be pretty nice," said Burns, who was a shining light in an otherwise dismal season for Surrey that saw the county relegated to Division Two for the third time in their history.
"Just to be put in the same bracket as someone like Joe is pretty good. Obviously he (Ballance) has done a lot. He has been picked for the England squad, he has passed 1000 runs and he has just got a big hundred against us. To beat someone like him is very nice.
"I'm very, very happy to have won the award – it’s a big honour. I had a pretty hard winter away, down under at the Lehmann Academy in Adelaide and I think that really helped the mental side of my game. I came back, had a quick start and it sort of went from there.
"Obviously you have got to perform in county cricket and then hopefully you strive for higher honours – that is what I have been doing and hopefully someday I will get there."
Burns was one of the more notable omissions from the England Performance Programme squad, which was announced with the Ashes party and will head Down Under alongside it.
But he already has plans to head back to Australia, to play grade cricket with Randwick Petersham in Sydney, before returning home for another fruitful summer at the Kia Oval.
"That’s another winter away working on my game and improving," he added. "Then I will come back and try to do exactly what I have done this year, with the same mindset and the same focus.
"I suppose it probably comes with a bit more expectation next year but I’ll just keep going about it the same way.
"I am going anyway but if I was on a performance squad it would have been nice – but that’s not something I’m worried about.
"If you get picked up for one of the performance squads it’s good but if you don’t, you don’t. It’s just about bridging the gap between County Championship and higher honours."
For more information on the LV= County Championship and this year’s LV= County Championship Breakthrough Player Award, visit www.LV.com/cricket