Stephen O'Keefe backed to be partner in harm to Nathan Lyon in Sydney Test

Former Test spinner Gavin Robertson said the Australian selectors made a rod for their own backs – should they want a tweaker to partner Nathan Lyon in the Sydney Test – by picking Ashton Agar for the last Ashes series in England ahead of this summer's in-form interstate bowler Stephen O'Keefe.

O'Keefe finished the first half of the Sheffield Shield season for NSW with 24 wickets at 22.25. It's the largest haul by any bowler in the competition and, by doing so, O'Keefe delivered what the selectors said they expected from him as a potential Test bowler: wickets.

While Agar, in comparison, had taken 14 scalps at almost 50 a piece, Robertson supposed the West Australian would be selected if there was an opportunity in the fifth Test due to the "investment" that had already been placed in him.

"I think they'd go Agar," Robertson said. "I think they've started their investment and the message it sends if they don't pick him could be . . . devastating. This is the problem, they should have picked O'Keefe for the Ashes in England. Although, I get the feeling [the selectors] think there's something special about Agar and I have to say I agree.

"I also get this feeling they might be happy simply running with Michael Clarke and Steve Smith to share some overs with Lyon [in Sydney]. I just think the attack is working so well [that, unless there was an injury], I doubt they'd want to break it up."

Another former spin bowler Jason Krejza believed O'Keefe had pushed for selection in Sydney if Lyon needed a partner in harm.

"It's nice if the selectors say, 'Go and get wickets', to go and do that," Krejza said. "It's a good situation. [O'Keefe is] a very good bowler and I think his numbers, wickets-wise, had never been fantastic, never had that really big year that made his name flash in lights, but he's started this season beautifully.

"He's a very consistent bowler and he gets that seam to sort of kilter and gives it an almost Graeme Swann-like ability. He's at the stumps all the time. He likes to hit the stumps a lot and I think the numbers have finally come for him."

Krejza, who took 12 Indian wickets in his 2008 Test debut but was selected for only one other baggy green appearance, said O'Keefe possessed an enviable quality.

"I've always admired his consistency," he said. "I have to try and figure out ways to bowl well but [O'Keefe] has a simple game plan: he wants to hit the stumps.

"It sounds simple but spinners can tend to over-think things, especially those who can turn the ball a lot. You think you need to pitch it in a certain area, bowl around the wicket, over the wicket.

"O'Keefe knows his strengths and weaknesses and he revolves his game around them," he said. "He knows he doesn't turn the ball a lot, though some do turn, and he bowls a bit quicker and at the pegs. He's clever."

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