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."