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Murphy relishes 'awesome' battle with Kohli and 'surreal' start to Test cricket

While his future opportunities after this tour remain uncertain, he hopes to use early success to get better

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Todd Murphy has dismissed Virat Kohli three times in as many Tests  •  Getty Images

Todd Murphy has dismissed Virat Kohli three times in as many Tests  •  Getty Images

Surreal. Daunting. As good as it gets. Those are just three ways Todd Murphy described his first experience of Test cricket amid the series in India, where he has been lauded for his maturity and ability to slot into the side despite limited experience.
Murphy had played seven first-class matches when he was called in to debut at Nagpur where he claimed seven wickets. All told he has taken 11 wickets at 21.81 with a miserly economy of 2.61, the latter particularly coming to the fore in the second innings in Indore when his wicketless 14 overs went for just 18 runs. He was praised by Daniel Vettori for playing a role in ensuring another India collapse.
Among that he has claimed Virat Kohli three times; the first owed a bit to luck when Kohli was caught down the leg side but the other two, especially the dismissal in Indore, came about through terrific skill.
"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."
Murphy has been part of a rare Australian spin trio in the last two Tests with Matthew Kuhnemann, with only a little more experience under his belt, also hastily drafted into the side for Delhi, then claiming his own maiden five-wicket haul in Indore to bundle out 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's relationship with Nathan Lyon was strong before the tour - the latter being a mentor during his young career - a strong bond has been formed with Kuhnemann after their similarly rapid elevation 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."
Quite when Murphy's next Test opportunity comes after Ahmedabad, providing Lyon remains fit, is uncertain. It is unlikely that conditions in England for the World Test Championship final and the Ashes will call for two spinners and it remains a rare route on home soil, although Ashton Agar did partner Lyon against South Africa at the SCG this season. Australia's next subcontinent tour is not until early 2025 when they visit Sri Lanka for two Tests.
Murphy is set for a spell in county cricket ahead of the Ashes and should be well-placed to be the second spinner in that squad.
"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."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo