ASHES winner Simon Jones believes his old employers Hampshire will be kicking themselves that they didn't tie down Rory Burns as he continues to go from strength to strength at Surrey.
Jones got a first hand look at Burns while at Hampshire as the now 22-year-old briefly played for the second XI during the 2010 season, although he had long turned out before then for Surrey.
And it was for Surrey that he made his first-class debut, turning out against Cambridge MCCU in May 2011, with Burns coming to the fore in his second season in the LV> County Championship this term.
Burns is nearing the 741 first-class runs he scored last year, with 569 opening up prior to the clash with Nottinghamshire at the Oval, in which he made 57 in the first innings.
And former England fast bowler Jones, part of the 2005 Ashes-winning squad, insists he could tell from Burns' short run at Hampshire that he was a player to look out for.
"I played with Rory at Hampshire when I was coming back from injury. I like the way he looks. I was surprised he wasn't kept on by Hampshire," said Jones, who is helping to promote the LV> County Championship Breakthrough Player Award.
"But they had players in his position and he got picked up by Surrey. He has been scoring runs for them and has done himself no harm in terms of showing what he can do.
"He has performed brilliantly. I felt he was not given a fair crack at Hampshire. But he looks a really good prospect. It's one of those things.
"I have been around a long time and have seen youngsters coming through into first teams. It can be a hard place to go into when you are young. But he is so keen to make an impression and has done well at Surrey."
Burns' form has seen him nominated for the LV> County Championship Breakthrough Player Award along with Sussex's Luke Wells, Leicestershire's Shiv Thakor and Yorkshire's Gary Ballance.Durham's Scott Borthwick and David Willey at Northamptonshire complete the six up for the prize.
Jones, who played 18 Tests for England, insists that, win or lose, Burns has a big future.
"I think they are all in with a good shout of picking up the award. Just to be nominated and to have their efforts recognised is brilliant," Jones added.
"It just shows how strong English cricket is and that there is a strong bunch of youngsters coming through. It's a tough pick.
"They all have the ability to express themselves in the big games and be able to stand out and be noticed.
"You can either hide away or be counted, and the best way is to stick your neck out, and they have all done that."
Simon Jones was speaking on behalf of County Championship title sponsors LV>. To Vote for your LV>County Championship Breakthrough Player, visit www.LV.com/cricket