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Inexperience no bar as Murphy and Kuhnemann keep pace with fast-forward Test cricket

Australia assistant coach Dan Vettori is impressed with the young spinners for playing the conditions and not the big-name India batters

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Nathan Lyon and his protege Todd Murphy discuss plans, India vs Australia, 2nd Test, Delhi, 2nd day, February 18, 2023

Todd Murphy's tight spells allowed the other spinners to cash in with wickets  •  Getty Images

Indore. India's first innings. Todd Murphy to Virat Kohli.
19.5 Beaten as this skids through. Kohli plays for turn from around the stumps but there's none there.
21.4 Big appeal and Kohli has been given! He has reviewed after a brief chat with KS Bharat. This one's fired full and fast, keeps a touch low too, Kohli plays across the front pad and is beaten as he prods forward. Ball tracking confirms this would've crashed into the stumps. India sink further.
It was Murphy's only wicket of the third Test among the 18 that Australia's spinners claimed, but it was just about the perfect set-up from the young offspinner following the seven he took on debut in Nagpur. It came amid Matthew Kuhnemann's five-wicket haul on the opening day in Indore as India fell apart for 109.
Nathan Lyon went on to enjoy one of the finest days of his stellar Test career with eight wickets in the second innings, but it's the performance of Australia's inexperienced spinners in this series that has been equally noteworthy.
That dismissal of Kohli was the third time Murphy had removed him in the series: overall Murphy has conceded 41 runs from 99 balls against him. Kuhnemann has had Kohli twice in three innings.
Spinners will rarely get better conditions to operate in, but with that comes the expectation to perform and with Murphy and Kuhnemann holding a combined first-class match tally of 20 before the series, they could easily have been overawed.
"That's the main challenge on these surfaces, the expectation is so high that you are going to do well [and] you are going to take a wicket every ball," Australia assistant coach Daniel Vettori, who made his Test debut after just two first-class matches back in the 1996-97 season, said. "To be able to be consistent against some of the best players of spin you'll come across in these conditions and with these expectations has probably been the most impressive thing so far.
"I think the guys who do it consistently, there are quite a number of them on show in this series from both teams… they don't wilt to the pressure. They just understand their process and they repeat, repeat and repeat. I think that's the real skill over here. To repeat as much as you can because you can get carried away by what's going on, the expectation, but all six spinners so far in the series have been able to manage those expectations."
Kuhnemann was more expensive in the second innings, although he did claim Kohli's wicket, and Murphy's wicketless 14 overs, which cost just 18 runs, have been praised for keeping a lid on India.

Daniel Vettori: Todd Murphy can attack as well as defend

Alex Carey, who was able to complete his first Test stumping when Murphy defeated Kohli in the second innings in Delhi, has had the perfect vantage point.
"Credit to the two young bowlers coming in and not playing the batsmen," he said. "Playing the conditions, playing the way that they have been for their state. I probably look to that second innings… at a time where Matty was leaking a little bit. So for him [Murphy] to do that, that's a huge role. Although he didn't get the wickets, we acknowledge that spell of bowling, the dryness that he had from his end."
"Steve Smith singled him [Murphy] out around his performances in the last Test," Vettori added. "Obviously Nathan and Matt got all the wickets but… his spell allowed everyone around him to take those wickets. And I think that probably embodies it, that series of balls that he's bowled to Kohli.
"Todd has that skill that he can be a defensive bowler and he can be an attacking bowler and work around pretty much whatever is required from him in the game. For such a young and inexperienced spinner… to be able to come here and handle these tough situations and perform the role that's required has been impressive."
Vettori played eight Tests in India where he claimed 31 wickets at 44.77 in an era where the pitches were often in favour of the bat, at least in the first half of the game. It meant he hasn't always been able to impart first-hand experience of the pitches served up in this series.
"That's been a question a lot of the guys have asked, if I'd played on these sorts of wickets and I just haven't," he said. "They were always just a war of attrition the wickets that I played on - India won the toss and got 600, you get 400 then hang on for dear life in the last couple of days. Now the game's in fast forward in a lot of ways."
A game in fast forward that Australia's young spinners are showing they can keep up with.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo