Surreal. Daunting. The best of the best. Those are just three ways Todd Murphy described his maiden experience of Test cricket amid the series in India, where he has been commended for his maturity and ability to slot into the team despite minimal experience.
When Murphy was called up to make his debut at Nagpur, where he took seven wickets, he had already played seven first-class games. He has a total of 11 wickets at an average of 21.81 and a poor economy of 2.61; the latter was especially evident in Indore’s second innings when his wicketless 14 overs resulted in just 18 runs. Daniel Vettori commended him for helping to prevent another another collapse of India
Virat Kohli has been dismissed by him three times. The first dismissal, when Kohli was caught down the leg side, was partially the result of luck, but the other two, particularly the one in Indore, were the result of exceptional talent.
“It’s been awesome,” Murphy said of that battle. “When I look back to Nagpur when he walked out to bat, I was at the top of my mark thinking this is as good as it gets getting to bowl to a guy like that. So to be able to have that for the first three Tests has been awesome, a really enjoyable battle and no different to bowling to a lot of their guys. When they stand there it is daunting at times.”
Murphy was modest about the set-up to Kohli in Indore. “It’s always nice when it looks like that,” he said. “And I think the plans for [coming from] around the wicket is always to challenge both sides of the edges, for that to work out the way it did was nice and to get him out again was awesome.”
With Matthew Kuhnemann, who has only slightly more experience, also being hurriedly pushed into the team for Delhi, Murphy has been a member of an uncommon Australian spin three in the previous two Tests. Kuhnemann then claimed his own first five-wicket haul in Indore to dismiss India for 109.
“It’s something I’ve never really experienced, playing with two other frontline spinners,” Murphy said. “Steve [Smith] talked about it before the last Test, it’s about putting your ego away and knowing you’re going to bowl short spells at times. It doesn’t mean you’re not bowling well, it’s probably just accepting that and knowing that at certain times you’re going to be playing different roles. It’s been enjoyable and we’ve been able to work off each other very well and we’re quite different.”
While Murphy and Nathan Lyon had a close relationship prior to the trip because Lyon had served as a mentor to Murphy throughout the early years of his career, a similar close relationship has developed between Kuhnemann and him as a result of their quick promotion to the Test arena.
“It’s been really cool,” he said. “We spoke about it after Kuhny debuted. At the start of the season we both weren’t in the state sides and to be here now playing Test cricket together is pretty surreal. It’s happened a lot faster than we both probably expected. We’ve just tried to enjoy it and the relationship is building nicely. We can talk about spin bowling, what works and what doesn’t.”
Murphy’s next Test opportunity, if Lyon stays healthy, won’t come until after Ahmedabad. Although Ashton Agar did accompany Lyon against South Africa at the SCG this season, it is unlikely that conditions in England for the World Test Championship final and the Ashes will call for two spinners. Australia won’t visit the Indian subcontinent again until early 2025, when they play two Test matches in Sri Lanka.
Prior to the Ashes, Murphy is scheduled to play some county cricket and should be in a good position to be the second spinner in that team.
“I haven’t thought too far ahead but when you look, Gaz [Lyon] is still bowling as good as he ever has so when this series does come to an end it is going to slow down a little, it’s quite rare other places in the world to play two spinners,” he said. “To have this taste so early, it will drive me to get better and what it even more when hopefully it next does come.”
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