Steve O'Keefe's Ashes availability took a blow after breaking a finger in Sydney grade cricket. Photo: AFP
Steve O'Keefe's Ashes availability took a blow after breaking a finger in Sydney grade cricket. Photo: AFP

Australia's spinning stocks suffer blow ahead of Ashes

Australia will rely on Nathan Lyon's durable record in Test cricket being able to hold up for the entire Ashes series, after Test back-up Steve O'Keefe was ruled out for the next six weeks with a broken finger.

O'Keefe suffered the break to a finger on his right, non-bowling hand in grade cricket for Manly and will now miss most or all of the November Sheffield Shield rounds as he recovers.

It's a blow to Australia's spin depth particularly given fellow left-armer Ashton Agar is also still at least a month away from returning from his own finger surgery.

Australia is yet to pick two spinners in a day-night Test, however, in the first two editions of the pink ball clash at Adelaide they have included a second spin option (O'Keefe) in their squad and have given serious consideration to unleashing a dual-turn combination.

However, that's going to be extremely difficult now that O'Keefe and Agar will have barely played, if at all before the second Ashes Test kicks off under lights starting on December 2.

Victoria's Jon Holland is also out injured to start the domestic season.

 

Lyon is likely the one and only spinner Australia will need for the Ashes, although he too was ruled out of the one-day clash against Victoria yesterday with a sore shoulder - sending a minor shiver down the spine of Australian selectors.

NSW has played down the seriousness of Lyon's injury after he landed awkwardly in a match last Friday and his absence has been described as "precautionary."

 

Australia's other spin option Ashton Agar is also out injured following finger surgery. Photo: Getty Images
Australia's other spin option Ashton Agar is also out injured following finger surgery. Photo: Getty Images

Lyon is not thought to be in any doubt whatsoever for NSW's opening Sheffield Shield match against South Australia in Adelaide starting on October 27.

Agar broke his finger during Australia's one-day series against India and flew home for surgery.

However, Western Australia say the operation went well and Agar is on track to play again in four weeks after passing a post-op check with flying colours.

O'Keefe was banned from the one-day Cup as punishment for his drunken behaviour at a NSW awards night earlier this year and was only just working his way back through the pre-season.

When picked completely out of the blue for Australia in their second Test in Bangladesh, he had barely bowled even in the nets since returning from India in March and was far from match fit.

O'Keefe will now have only a couple of rounds to find form for NSW to put some performances on the board to be considered for the fifth Ashes Test in Sydney, where he has played for the past two years.

Meanwhile, Australian Twenty20 wicketkeeper Tim Paine has returned from India only to be marched straight back to second XI cricket for Tasmania.

After Test keeper Matt Wade returned to the Tigers for this season, Paine's future with the gloves is now under a cloud.

This despite the fact he is an Australian representative and someone Australian selectors would still be interested in keeping an eye on.

News Corp Australia

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