Australia A v South Africa A, Townsville August 13, 2014

O'Keefe ready for UAE audition

ESPNcricinfo staff

Spinner Steve O'Keefe is hoping his shoulder stands up to the rigours of a four-day match against South Africa A this week as he auditions for a possible place in Australia's Test squad.

O'Keefe will take the field for Australia A in Townsville in a match starting on Thursday, his first game for nearly five months, after he had a shoulder reconstruction at the end of the summer. However, the good news for O'Keefe's left-arm bowling is that it was his right shoulder that required the surgery, meaning that his main test will come if he has to dive in the field.

"It's as good as I can be," O'Keefe told the Daily Telegraph. "It's going to take six months for it to heal properly and the surgeon said it doesn't matter what I do in terms of strength or stretching, that's just how long the body is going to take naturally.

"I've done everything in my power to get it to a standard where I can bat and bowl, the only issue is diving on it [fielding] but I've been able to manage that. It's good enough to play, that's for certain."

If fully fit, O'Keefe would be difficult to ignore for Australia's upcoming Test tour of Pakistan in October, given the likelihood of spinning conditions there. Nathan Lyon was the only specialist slow bowler taken on Australia's most recent Test tour, to South Africa in February-March, but there is no question that at least two will be needed in the UAE.

O'Keefe was the leading wicket taker in the Sheffield Shield last summer, with 41 victims at 20.43, and over the course of a 40-match first-class career has collected 126 wickets at 24.52. He played seven T20 internationals from 2010 to 2011 but has been overlooked for Test duties while other left-arm orthodox spinners such as Ashton Agar, Xavier Doherty and Michael Beer have been chosen.

"I haven't had any feedback be it technical or mental but you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out why you haven't been picked," O'Keefe said. "I can understand why they've picked those guys in front of me. You certainly can't whinge. You have to improve your game and put performances on the board. It's as simple as it gets."

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  • peter on August 14, 2014, 14:03 GMT

    Ridiculous that it has taken SOK so long to get a look in at national (A) level too. How he can have an average as good as his (24) bowling spin in Aus conditions is phenomenal. Not to mention a handy batting average of almost 28. To compare to Shane Warne his FC bowling average is better as is his economy rate. His strike rate is only less by 1 ball per wicket. His batting average is also better by 10 runs. This is not to say he is better than Shane Warne, but it does highlight how someone who led the wicket takers in Sheffield shield last year (as a spinner on non-spin friendly pitches) and has a FC career average better than the mighty Shane Warne has been consistently overlooked whilst the following guys have been tried out in recent times (FC average in brackets after and to note none of these players except Maxwell/White have a batting average as high as SOK either): SOK (24)

  • rob on August 14, 2014, 12:58 GMT

    The pressures right on SOk. He finally gets his chance. 2 wickets today is a great start because it should settle his nerves nicely. Best of luck to you Steve.

    Agree with everyone who says they've got to take him to the UAE.

  • Dummy4 on August 13, 2014, 22:55 GMT

    Mark Waugh's inclusion as a selector may change that. He was always a straight talker when he played and team-mates either acknowledged that or didn't like it. Having Mark Waugh and Rod Marsh as selectors will allow the blunt honest talking types to emerge into the team.

  • Patrick on August 13, 2014, 21:23 GMT

    "I can understand why they've picked those guys in front of me." - Well then you're the only one mate!

  • Trevor on August 13, 2014, 11:51 GMT

    There's something rotten in CA where guys like this can be continually overlooked despite putting up OBVIOUSLY better performances than all the other bowlers who have been picked before him. Who's jimmies did he rustle on the selection panel? To put petty personal feelings above the good of your country means you should never be allowed near a selection panel again. Hopefully he takes a bagful of wickets and the selectors finally swallow what pride they have left and give him a good run in the test side. He's clearly the best spin bowler in the country.

  • kieran on August 13, 2014, 10:49 GMT

    It truly speaks volumes about the arbitrary nature of the selectors (aka The Boys Club) performance over the last 8 years that Doherty, Beer, and Agar have all featured in front of the best qualified spinner in the country.

    It's obvious that he should play, which means he more than likely won't. I imagine the selectors will claim that Steve Smith has been bowling really well in the nets and he'll be called on for a few overs to give the seamers a rest. Best of luck SOK, one day I'd like to hear the full story.

  • Basil on August 13, 2014, 8:58 GMT

    It's a no brainer. He's the best spinner in the country and as a bonus can bat a bit too. His record is brilliant by Australian domestic standards. Avoiding him hamstrung Australia on there last Test series in India, surely they can't do it again. If the selectors are serious about the Pakistan series, he'll be in the XI.

  • James on August 13, 2014, 8:44 GMT

    This time I reckon the selectors have no choice but to pick him. We have tried all pace attacks in turning wickets and it didn't work in India, so this time we should start off with two spinners right away. It should be ideal as they spin the ball different ways.

  • Marius on August 13, 2014, 7:48 GMT

    My opinion on the four Aussie left-arm spinners mentioned Steve O'Keefe - Good, capable spinner, that Shield record is hard to pass up. Even plays for NSW, so he clearly must have annoyed the wrong person at CA to not have a Test cap yet. The most qualified guy for the job. Ashton Agar - The guy I would most like to see as the second spin option. Does what is required with ball in hand, and would strengthen the tail when batting. Needs to work on not bowling a pressure release every two overs. The long-term option for the team. Michael Beer - Anybody who can get selected for Test duties bowling spin for WA is alright by me. He's getting on a bit, but has shown in the past that he can hold down a spot in the side as a spinner, even be the first option. The conservative option. Xavier Doherty - Dear (insert deity of choice here) no. He's a limited overs specialist. He bowls so defensively that the last time he got a Test cap (in India), he went wicketless. The option CA will likely pick.

  • Richard on August 13, 2014, 7:09 GMT

    Surely a no brainer for the UAE? Could be an excellent foil for Lyon methinks.

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