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Golden opportunity for Stephen O'Keefe to maintain No.2 spin status

Stephen O'Keefe is on trial for a berth for the tour of Sri Lanka this winter after being named to play his first Test on home soil in Sydney.

Australian selectors will almost certainly not take a second slow bowler to New Zealand next month but O'Keefe's services will be required for the series in spin-friendly Sri Lanka, provided his form warrants it.

While Peter Siddle's availability was not decided until Saturday, captain Steve Smith said Australia was always going to take spin twins into the final Test of the summer.

Overlooked for a long time by previous selection panels, O'Keefe has finally established himself as Nathan Lyon's back-up through weight of numbers, fending off Fawad Ahmed and Ashton Agar.

And he has a golden opportunity to reaffirm those credentials on a pitch expected by curator Tom Parker to offer plenty of turn.

O'Keefe played his only Test, in Dubai, bowling in tandem with Lyon but with little success for either bowler, though they have had more success for NSW.


"He's got an opportunity now to become the second spinner," Smith said. "They've done well together ... hopefully they can do that this week and he can press claims for the Sri Lankan tour."

O'Keefe comes in as a straight replacement for Siddle, who ruled himself out with his ankle complaint. The Victorian will have a short break with the view of being available for the series in New Zealand.

"He felt it wasn't best for him to come into this Test match the way he is at the moment," Smith said.

"He's a great team man and felt he would be letting the team down.

"But we were probably going to go the two spinners option anyway. We think it's going to turn."

The likelihood of heavy rain during the match will put that theory to the test but the Australians believe the "thatchy" grass cover will offer plenty of purchase.

O'Keefe's selection means all-rounder Mitchell Marsh will play as a third seamer while Scott Boland will have to wait another month at least for his baggy green.

With no more first-class cricket between now and the naming of the squad for New Zealand, injury looms as the only way Boland will miss out.

The Victorian has made a strong impression upon the Australians since joining the squad in Melbourne. He managed what few have achieved recently on Saturday - bowling Steve Smith, albeit in the nets.

"I think it hit a crack and did a little bit," Smith quipped.

"If he got an opportunity he'd be ready to go. He's impressed me quite a lot, the way he;s bowled in the nets the last couple of weeks.

"He's hit the bat very hard and bowled good areas. He puts in all day and that's what you need from someone like that. If he's got an opportunity I think he'd be ready to go."