Australia have been way below-par in the first Test against India in Nagpur but the same can’t be said about debutant Todd Murphy. The 22-year-old, on Friday (February 10), became the youngest Australian spinner to take a five-wicket haul in Test cricket.
The offspinner dismissed the likes of KL Rahul, R Ashwin, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and KS Bharat to end day two with figures of 5/82 in 36 overs. Murphy easily outbowled Nathan Lyon (1/98) and was the only Australian player to stand tall on the day which was dominated by Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel.
“Coming into the game, I was sort of hoping to get one wicket at least. To finish the day with five on debut is a special day. It's been a pretty surreal week, it's all happened quite fast. From the moment I found out I'll be playing until now, just tried to embrace it and enjoy everything that comes with it,” said Murphy.
“I try to make sure that my body language is quite good and I believe in myself. The message I got from a lot of guys was don't change anything that I've been doing in state cricket. I looked at Jadeja, Ashwin and Axar, they were so consistent with what they were doing. They didn't go searching for too much. That was something I was looking at - putting enough balls in that area to ask questions for long enough.”
Asked to pick his favourite wicket, Murphy said it was his dream to dismiss Kohli. It wasn’t a wicket-taking delivery though, probably the worst he bowled on day two, but Murphy doesn’t care. It was short and down the leg but Kohli ended up edging it to the wicketkeeper Alex Carey. “The one that got Virat out even though it wasn't the best ball of the day. That's dream come true,” said Murphy.
“A guy I have watched for so long, he's a hero for all these guys. The roar when he came out to bat sort of took me back a little bit and it was quite special to share the field with him. I tried to embrace it and play with a smile on my face. When Virat walked out to bat and the crowd went off... that's amazing sort of stuff... I think that's going to live with me forever.
“It's awesome to get the opportunity to mix it with guys like that. I heard the little inside edge, hoping that Carey would hang on to it, thankfully he did, he's kept beautifully behind the stumps, and he's helped me with a couple of reviews too. He had a big part to play in those wickets today.”
Murphy might be having a debut to remember but Australia will need something extraordinary to save this Test. Despite Murphy’s five-wicket haul, India have managed to take a lead of 144 and still have three wickets left. After Rohit slammed 120, Jadeja (66*) and Axar (52*) got together and have already put on 81 runs for the eighth wicket.
“The game was right in the balance until that last partnership. Credit to those two guys, they've been able to absorb everything we threw at them and build that partnership. The ball is still doing enough when you put it there but there are no actual demons there. The guys that applied themselves and just looked to bat long periods of time were able to reap the rewards.
“I haven't bowled to a lot of people from around the world but I think the Indian guys they use their hands really well. They get their hands out in front of their pads and they have got a lot of scoring options too. So always a really difficult challenge there. And it was quite tough.
“We need to come with a really good attitude in the morning and try and press hard for those three wickets. The sooner we get them, the sooner we can get batting and try and eat into that deficit and post a lead. If we can get 150-200 runs in front, then you've got something to bowl at.”
It was six years ago that Murphy, back then a medium pace-bowling all-rounder, decided to give up his military mediums for off-spin. The reason behind the transition? Simple: despite being a designated ‘medium pace-bowling all-rounder’, he was, back then, neither good at pace bowling nor batting.
“I think in all honesty my medium pace wasn't really any good anyway, so it sort of just came a time where I was tinkering in the nets with off-spin bowling and yeah, got some really good feedback that what was coming out of my hand was alright. So, just went from there and kept working at it and it's been the best thing I've ever done. So thankful I have.”