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Australia v West Indies third Test: Stephen O'Keefe, Mitchell Marsh liven up dead match

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The Test arena is not a place for experimentation, as Darren Lehmann pointed out last week, but sometimes rules are there to be broken. Day five of a rain-soaked Test with no possibility of a winner is one such instance.

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For Nathan Lyon it was a chance to bowl leg-spin – one ball was a full toss, the other a half-tracker – but there was more at stake for several of his teammates, not least his spin-twin Stephen O'Keefe.

When O'Keefe laid eyes on this SCG pitch he would have had grand visions about taking a big bag and bowling his country to victory in his first Test on home soil.

Alas, three days of persistent rain deprived him of the chance to make the most of what was promising to be a spinner's haven.

Such turns of misfortune are not new to O'Keefe, who for a player with such accomplished first-class numbers had to wait longer than most for a baggy green. He has also had a Test tour called off due to safety fears.


By the time O'Keefe returned to the field on the fifth day, this match had nothing on the line which is also why he had more to lose than gain. A poor performance and his standing as Lyon's understudy for the tour to Sri Lanka later this year would have been on shaky ground.

O'Keefe finished with three wickets, bowled straight, beat the bat occasionally with one that turned, and was not flustered by a Windies tail eager to throw the bat.

"I got one with a half volley, with a wide one, and short one – just needed a full toss and it'd be all right," O'Keefe joked later. "I was buzzing the whole time I was in there. Glenn McGrath spoke to us and said 'don't take a moment in those sheds for granted'.

"I really enjoyed my time and it's such a privilege to wear the baggy green again."

Mitchell Marsh will be disappointed in how his rare opportunity to bat at No.3 ended. After playing conservatively for close to an hour, Marsh threw away the chance for red ink with an ugly swipe across the line to the spin of Jomel Warrican.

​​His mode of dismissal will have his critics questioning the value he places on his wicket, nor will it help him should he remain in a position where his claims to the No.6 berth lie in his numbers with the ball rather than the bat. "I'm almost too shocked to speak," a gobsmacked Simon Katich said in the ABC box. "Mitch Marsh just did not need to do that. He knows this game will be over in a matter of 29 minutes the most, [I'm] not sure why he wanted to play that sweep. All of a sudden that's come from nowhere and he's paid the price, he'll be disappointed with that."

Marsh's rush of blood ensured wicketkeeper Peter Nevill did not go through the series without batting. Nevill's high-class glove work is proof his eye is in though Australia's dominance with the bat means he has missed the chance to cash in. His 21 minutes at the crease on Thursday were his first at any level since November 29, 2015.

He has only a few games in the Big Bash League for Melbourne Renegades before he heads to New Zealand.