Moeen responds to Murphy’s query for Australia: “You have to play a spinner”

The fate of the Test may depend on how Pat Cummins handles Todd Murphy at Old Trafford (assuming he plays)

Todd Murphy must be used as a frontline spinner, according to Moeen Ali. What England say will likely be a minor factor in Australia’s decision-making for their starting lineup at Old Trafford.

Murphy only bowled 9.3 overs at Headingley and just two one-over periods during England’s victorious chase after replacing the injured Nathan Lyon, and going without a specialist spinner would have been one way to fit in the fit-again Cameron Green.

The fourth Test is expected to feature some spin, despite the fact that the weekend’s prediction is unknown, as Australia hasn’t fielded an all-pace attack since the 2011–12 Test against India in Perth. The rain stopped in the afternoon after interfering with England’s practice, and Pat Cummins, Andrew McDonald, and on-tour selector Tony Dodemaide all spent time examining the surface.

Shane Warne’s century-ball in 1993 is just one example of the lengthy history of spin bowling in Ashes cricket at Old Trafford. Warne had success with the bounce and turn available at the venue, taking 21 wickets in three matches, however Lyon had less success in his two appearances in 2013 and 2019, where he only managed to take three wickets.

Despite having a reputation for encouraging spin, the English men’s Test venues with the highest average for spinners over the past 10 years have been on this particular surface. A frontline spinner, according to Moeen Ali, is essential, and Cummins’ use of Murphy will be a key factor in the game. Moeen has taken 16 wickets at an average of 18.50 in three Tests at Old Trafford.

“You have to play a spinner in a Test match no matter where it is, in my opinion, but Old Trafford especially,” Moeen said. “I think the way they used him [Murphy], it was a difficult one, I think the chase was a difficult one because we would have preferred facing a spinner. [They] were missing Nathan Lyon, who has been a massive part of the team and does an amazing job for them.

“Todd’s good, he looks really good, he’s got really good potential and I’m sure he’s going to bowl a lot more here. From a captain’s point of view, it’s not always easy to use somebody who’s pretty new into the side, especially a spinner, and I think that’s where captaincy really comes into it now.

“Because when you’ve got a good spinner like Swanny [Graeme Swann] used to be or Nathan Lyon, it’s quite easy, just give them the ball. But now I think for Pat it will be a test of real captaincy and let’s see how good you are now, but he’s done a good job so far.”

Josh Hazlewood, who had six wickets in Australia’s 2019 victory at Old Trafford to reclaim the Ashes, is expected to take the place of Scott Boland this week after the latter sat out the Headingley match. He also predicted that Murphy would play a much bigger part this week.

“Todd’s had a great start to his career particularly in the subcontinent against the best players of spin in the world, India,” he said. “I know we are going to miss Gazza [Lyon] from time to time when we are in the field but think Todd as his understudy has done a great job so far and expect the same again.”

During their training session on Monday, more hints about the composition of Australia seemed to be on the table. While Green remained with the reserve players, despite having a bowl on the square in the afternoon, David Warner, whose position appeared solid, fielded at first slip and Mitchell Marsh in the gully.

Hazlewood is optimistic that he would be able to complete the next two Tests. The first time he had played back-to-back first-class matches since 2020–21 was at Edgbaston and Lord’s, where he grabbed eight wickets after being dropped from the World Test Championship final side.

“We haven’t bowled a lot of overs in terms of what Test matches usually look like for us,” he said. “The way England plays, it gets us in the field for a little less in terms of workload. I felt pretty good going into [Headingley]. It was probably the right call now I can sit back and look at the big picture. I was desperate to play, which is obvious. But now it makes sense.

“I was probably a little bit underdone for that World Test Championship and then got ready for the first game. I didn’t seem too rusty when I was out there in the middle. Once you get that big day of workload underneath you, you feel a lot better for the run. I felt better and better as I was going along. Hopefully after that little break, I’ll coming out firing again.”