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Australian Cricket: Murphy set for Test debut

The battle to win the Border-Gavaskar Trophy gets underway on Thursday when India and Australia go head-to-head in the first Test in Nagpur.

It looks sure to be an intriguing battle between the Aussies, who are ranked the number one Test side in the world, and India who are ranked number two.

As well as the trophy and bragging rights, there is plenty more at stake heading into the series. India know that they have to pick up a convincing series win if they are to reach the World Test Championship final in 2023.

They need to win 3-0 at the very least. Australia are top of the WTC rankings but are not guaranteed a place in the final just yet so still have some work to do. India are priced at 4/7 to win the series, Australia 10/3. A drawn series can be backed at 4/1.

Tensions are already bubbling heading into the first Test as groundsmen in Nagpur have prepared a pitch to suit India and potentially cause Australia’s left-handed batsmen some issues. Aussie captain Pat Cummins has taken it all in his stride and says such issues are all part and parcel of playing away from home.

We could be in for a fiery opening Test and series so let’s take a closer look at the two teams.

What:India v Australia
Where:VCA Stadium, Nagpur
When:15:00 (AEST) 9th to 13th February 2023
How to watch:Foxtel Go, Kayo Sports
Odds:India 8/11, Australia 12/5, Draw 9/2

Aussies to go with two off-spinners

Australian skipper Pat Cummins has dropped a big hint that the Baggy Greens are set to go with two off-spinners in the opening Test. It goes without saying that Nathan Lyon is one and he could now be joined by Victorian youngster Todd Murphy who is in line to make his Test debut.

Australia are missing two of their star fast bowlers with Mitchell Starc ruled out with a finger injury, while Josh Hazlewood has an issue with his Achilles. Going with two spinners to support Cummins and Scott Boland is no surprise, but the inclusion of Murphy is.

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It was thought that Aston Agar would get the nod, but the selectors have opted for Murphy, who has just seven first-class appearances to his name. However the 22-year-old has already taken 29 wickets and Cummins and co will have every faith in his ability to get the job done.

Elsewhere star all-rounder Cameron Green looks set to miss out altogether through injury. It was always going to be touch and go for the West Aussie as he recovers from a broken finger.

It had been suggested that Green may just bat at six, but Steve Smith told reporters that he would be very surprised if the young star was part of the side for the opener. Meanwhile right-handed batsman Peter Handscomb looks set for a Test recall.

The Aussies are wary of having too many left-handers in the batting line-up after India prepared the Nagpur pitch to target them. The Aussies still have the best two batsmen in world cricket in their side.

Marnus Labuschagne is currently ranked number one in the world, with Smith number two. Not only that, Travis Head is ranked number four so the quality is there.

However dealing with the conditions in India will test them to the max. Smith and Labuschagne can both be backed at 4/1 to make a century in the match.

India could go with four spinners

India have prepared the pitch in their favour and will be keen to make it count. With that in mind it has been reported they could go with four spin bowlers for the opening Test.

Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja are all in their squad and all four could get the nod. India have been rocked by the news that star bowler Jasprit Bumrah, who is ranked third in the world, will miss the entire series following a car crash.

Rishabh Pant is also injured but there is a chance he could be ready for the third Test. India will also be missing star batsman Shreyas Iyer and are faced with a dilemma over who will replace him.

Shubman Gill and Suryakumar Yadav are the two candidates but the latter has not played Test cricket and could be a gamble. Virat Kohli is priced at 10/3 to make a century in the match.

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