Todd Murphy plays his role to perfection | Viral Trending Updates

Todd Murphy plays his role to perfection | Viral Trending Updates

Moeen Ali was batting on one leg by the time he arched his bat and upper-cut Pat Cummins for four over Alex Carey’s head, and Australia seemed to have let their opportunity to take control of the fifth Test slip away.

Cummins had finally won a toss, his first of the series, and asked England to bat first under thick cloud cover, with the floodlights turned on shortly after the lunch break. Australia had reduced England to 73 for 3 but dropped three catches and missed a run-out chance; Harry Brook and Moeen had brought up a 100-run stand in 17 overs.

Enter Todd Murphy, long sleeves pulled up, top-button clasped and up-turned collar flopping down. At 22, Murphy is a boy in a team of men, the youngest player in this Australian XI by seven years. He has played as many Tests as Sheffield Shield games (six of each), and in most of those he has been Victoria’s second spinner.

But here he was, standing at the Vauxhall End and trying to burgle a wicket for a group of team-mates at a completely different stage in life to him. This Australia team will undergo a near-total regeneration before its next tour here in four years’ time and these five days are about securing a legacy for most of them. Murphy is still making his way.

His first ball was a fraction short, and Brook punched it away through point to get off strike. His second was even shorter. Moeen rocked back and pulled him away through midwicket for four. Cummins told short leg to move to midwicket, fearing that Murphy had already underlined the reason for his non-selection in Manchester last week.

But Murphy’s next ball was a braver one: much fuller, drifting in with the around-the-wicket angle. It was quick (58mph/93kph) and hardly turned, but had enough drop on it to sneak underneath Moeen’s bat as he swung wildly, lining up a swipe into the leg side.

Murphy hardly celebrated, wearing the expression of a bowler still annoyed at himself for the previous ball. Perhaps, too, he was conscious of what is to come: Moeen’s wicket brought Ben Stokes in at No. 6, the man who crashed him for five sixes at Headingley before eventually holing out to long-on.

And yet Murphy fared well against Stokes, tossing the ball up and conceding only two singles from the 11 balls he bowled to him. He beat him on the cut, cramping him for room, and responded by dragging his length back when Stokes skipped out of his crease.

He was whipped out of the attack after Stokes fell, losing his off stump to Mitchell Starc when looking to break the scoring pressure by turning him into the leg side, then returned for a token over before tea.

After the interval, Murphy’s second ball was full and flighted, and scythed over point for four by Mark Wood. It was one of two boundaries he conceded, and just as he had after lunch, he responded by taking a wicket with his next ball: Wood cleared his front leg, and Murphy’s offbreak crashed into the top of his middle stump.

There was a brief celebration this time, punching the air and roaring, “yeah! Come on!” before giving David Warner – 14 years his senior – a high-ten. Wood’s partnership with Chris Woakes was worth 49, the third-highest partnership of England’s innings; it was Murphy who broke two of the three substantial stands.

He finished with 2 for 22 from his six overs – and it should have been three-for, but for a fluffed caught-and-bowled chance when Woakes chipped one back to him. Thrown into away tours in India and England, Murphy has 17 wickets at 24.94 in his first five-and-a-bit Tests.

“Since he started in his Test career he’s been really good for us, through India,” Starc said. “He didn’t play a heap of a role at Headingley – [he was] used pretty sparingly there – but he’s come back and played a job today. He’s going to learn from those experiences, his first Ashes tour on the back of his first Indian tour.”

Murphy has had a walk-on role in this series and it is clear that Cummins does not trust him to the same extent that he does Nathan Lyon. And how could he be expected to? Lyon is a veteran of 122 Tests; Murphy is playing the 14th first-class game of his career.

“Obviously coming in and trying to fill Nathan’s boots is a big deal as it is,” Starc added. “Nathan has obviously bowled quite well here in the past; did in the Test final. Todd’s gone off the back of that and bowled some really good overs today with a couple of crucial wickets. We’ll look for him to play another part in the second innings.”

Starc predicted that Murphy is “going to be a quality spinner for us for a long time,” and Australia will hope that he can be Lyon’s long-term successor. Whether that proves to be the case or not, he is fulfilling a role well enough that he could help some of Australia’s modern greats tick one final achievement off their bucket lists.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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