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Sunday, 24 July 2016





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Australia mull over playing two spinners

Australia going into a Test match with two spinners is something that is very rare even in the subcontinent. The last occasion they toured Sri Lanka in 2011, the only spinner in their eleven for the three-Test series was off-spinner Nathan Lyon who is expected to spearhead his country’s spin department once again in the upcoming Test series.

Angelo Mathews ready to bat

However the performance of left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe in the 3-day practice game at the P Sara Oval and Sri Lanka’s depleted fast bowling stocks (through injury) has convinced the Australian team management that the best way to go about on bone dry Lankan pitches is to have a double spin attack. The Australians line of thinking is that Sri Lanka with their top fast-medium bowlers out of action would concentrate on preparing spin-oriented pitches to suit spinners Rangana Herath and Dilruwan Perera.

So there is a likelihood of Australia adding O’Keefe into their bowling line-up to partner Lyon.

Australian coach Darren Lehmann has all-but confirmed in Cricket Australia’s official website that Australia will play two spinners in the first Test at Pallekele after the left-armer’s star performance.

Steve O’Keefe

“I think we would probably be leaning towards two spinners the way conditions are,” Lehmann told CA. O’Keefe pressed for a Test place with a match-winning bowling performance against a Sri Lanka Board President’s XI taking 10 wickets for 64 runs in less than 20 overs and to convince that he was no ordinary tailender contributed a useful 78 not out which was the highest individual score of the match.

If he is picked for the Pallekele Test it will be O’Keefe’s third Test in just over two years. His previous two Test appearances has been against Pakistan at Dubai in 2014 and against West Indies at Sydney in January 2016..

“We know what we’re going to get with him,” Lehmann said of the 31-year-old left-arm spinner. “He’s been excellent for New South Wales and had a lot of success in (Sheffield) Shield.

“He’s worked really hard, he’s a lively, buzzing-around character for us and played exactly the role we wanted him to play here in this game (at P Sara Oval). “He bats really well, fields really well and complements Nathan with spinning (the ball) the other way. We think that’s the way to go,” Lehmann told CA indicating that O’Keefe presents not only a reliable, proven option but one that – on the strength of his tour game form this week – looms as a match winner. Australia has been rather diffident towards playing left-arm spinners in their line-up. Tom Hogan who toured Sri Lanka with Greg Chappell’s team in 1983 and played a key role in Australia’s innings victory in the one-off Test at Asgiriya stands out as the last to serve Australia as a specialist left-arm spinner for more than half a dozen Tests.

On his Test debut Hogan took five wickets for 66 runs in the second innings at Asgiriya bowling in tandem with off-spinner Bruce Yardley. The pair took 13 of the 20 wickets to fall in the match.


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