Australia pick Green over Murphy for Old Trafford Ashes Test

Australia will go into a Test without a frontline spinner for the first time in more than 10 years after Todd Murphy was omitted for Old Trafford where the visitors can retain the Ashes with a draw and clinch the series with a victory.

The final selection call came down to Murphy or Cameron Green with the allrounder, who missed the Headingley Test with a minor hamstring injury, winning out. It will give Australia a very deep batting order with Alex Carey pencilled in at No. 8 and Pat Cummins at No. 10.

There had been a squeeze on selection after Mitchell Marsh, who replaced Green in Leeds, scored a superb first-innings century but it remains very unusual for Australia to forgo their spinner.

The last time Australia did not field a specialist spinner was against India in Perth in 2011-12, early in Nathan Lyon’s career before he became a fixture and went on to feature in 100 consecutive Tests until the series-ending calf injury he suffered at Lord’s.

Had Lyon been fit there would have been no question of leaving him out for this match, but the selectors have gone for a different route regarding the inexperienced Murphy who had a very limited role at Headingley, bowling just 9.3 overs.

“Nathan Lyon is the greatest offspinner we’ve ever had so it’s not quite apples for apples,” Cummins said. “We are really excited by Todd, think he’s fantastic. Would have loved to use him a bit more last week, think conditions just favoured pace bowling.

“We played a Test in Hobart last year in the Ashes where Nath didn’t bowl an over. It’s all conditions based, we are really excited by Todd, we think he’s a gun, we love having him around, he’s got a big future. It was more conditions or the way I used him, as opposed to how he bowled.”

Lyon had played a key role in Australia’s win at Edgbaston, but the aggressive way England bat can mean less opportunity for a spinner to get into a match especially when conditions favour pace. They have only batted longer than 80 overs once in the series.

Murphy’s omission will leave the bulk of any spin bowling Australia require in the hands of Travis Head, although Steven Smith and Marnus Labuschagne could also contribute. Head has become an increasingly useful option for Cummins with the past 12 months bringing all nine of his Test wickets at 17.55 although four of those came in very helpful conditions in Galle.

“When Nath played he obviously hasn’t had to bowl much but still provides something a little bit different to Nath so have used him a little bit,” Cummins said. “Really confident [in him], he defends himself well, uses a bit of drift as much as spin and he’s quite clever. Lot a confidence in his bowling, and we’ve got Smithy and Marny who can bowl some leggies, too.”

Moeen Ali, who has a good record at Old Trafford with 16 wickets at 18.50 from three Tests, argued that a frontline spinner was a must, but Australia have thought differently.

“You have to play a spinner in a Test match no matter where it is, in my opinion, but Old Trafford especially,” he 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.”

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