Pakistan provided David Murphy with another tough induction into international cricket on Friday, with the tourists’ 96-run victory over Scotland illustrating the slim margins for error available in the pursuit of that elusive upset.
With five home debutants, and a new captain at the helm, judgement should not be rushed. A greater poise will be required today in the second leg of the two-game series at the Grange if the hosts are to prevail, though.
Murphy will savour the occasion but soak up the experience. At just 23, the opportunity beckons for the Northamptonshire wicket-keeper to solidify his position for years to come. One of the fresh intake of Anglo-Scots (he qualifies through his Glasgow-born mother), his performances on the winter tours to South Africa and Dubai were enough to convince his county employers of his worth, installing him as the designated successor to Niall O’Brien.
The incomparable Irishman offered his pretender an insight into the value of Associate cricket, enhancing his reputation with a series of striking shows at major tournaments. “I contacted Cricket Scotland when I was 15 or 16 before the qualification rules changed,” Murphy reveals. “But having Niall there and seeing the limelight he was able to create for himself through playing for Ireland made me see what the benefits are. He got the chance to show his skills at higher level and that’s something I’d like too.”
Much will depend on Scotland’s progress, and whether they can fight their way through to the next World Cup with a promising, if untested, young nucleus under Kyle Coetzer’s captaincy. Two days ago, the Saltires bowling was adroit, their fielding precise. Yet their batting timid and wasteful and it cost them dear.
With that in mind, it would be no shock if Neil Carter is jettisoned this morning in favour of Warwickshire prospect Freddie Coleman who has displayed immense promise. “We just need more impetus in the middle,” acknowledged Coetzer.
“I thought we did a pretty decent job keeping them down to 230 on what wasn’t a bad wicket,” Murphy added. “It did turn a bit more and they’ve got the best unorthodox spinner in the world (in Saeed Ajmal, pictured left) so it was always going to be difficult. But I felt we should have made a better effort. We lost wickets at bad times and that stopped us building partnerships.
“We had one 50 partnership. We targeted one 100 partnership and two 50 ones. If we’d done that, we’d have won but we now need to take those chances second time around and put in a better batting performance.”
The man behind the stumps plans to make a contribution of his own. “Murph’s a great gloveman, exceptional standing up,” says Coetzer. However modern keepers can no longer be fielding specialists. Runs are an obligatory supplement. “At most of the levels I’ve played at, I’ve been viewed as a batsman,” the newcomer states. “My keeping is a help but I want to contribute runs and help Scotland win games.”
It would help Coetzer’s cause no end as he tries to fashion a squad in his mould. Murphy has played with the Aberdonian for almost two years and he has no doubts over his capacity to craft a revival act.
“Any side I’ve played in with Kyle, he’s always been seen as a leader,” he affirms. “He’s never shy to raise those points he feels could help the team. And he’s had a long and distinguished career with Scotland so this is a natural progression for him really.” Onwards, upwards, now to Round 2.