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Australia aims for sweep over the West Indies

Steve O'Keefe returns to the side as the home team fields two spinners in XI for the first time in ten years
Steve O’Keefe will pair up with Nathan Lyon for Australia's third and final Test match against the West Indies at Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) from Sunday (January 3), as the home side is set to field two spinners in the line-up for the first time after Stuart MacGill and Shane Warne were a part of an eight-wicket win over South Africa at the same venue in 2006.

O’Keefe comes in place of Peter Siddle, who suffered an ankle injury in the second Test in Melbourne, which Australia won by 177 runs to retain the Frank Worrell Trophy. SCG’s reputation as a spinner-friendly pitch paved the way for O’Keefe's inclusion.

“Peter Siddle is still a little bit sore. He felt it wasn't best for him to come into this Test match the way he is at the moment,” Steven Smith, Australia’s captain, told reporters at the ground. “He's a great team man and felt he would be letting the team down [if he played]. We were probably going to go the two spinners option anyway.

“The wicket looks dry so I think it'll take some spin,” he added. “He (Siddle) will have a rest for a couple of weeks and hopefully get himself right for (February's tour of) New Zealand.”

O’Keefe, 31, was eager to leave his mark on his comeback after playing his sole Test against Pakistan more than a year ago. “It's so tough to get that second spinning opportunity. It's been ten years in Australia since we've played two spinners and those two spinners were Warne and MacGill,” said O'Keefe, a left-arm finger spinner with 191 first-class wickets at less than 25. “It's a bit of a feather in my cap that they're considering two spinners given the depth that we have in quicks and given the wickets around Australia are generally more pace-conducive.”

O’Keefe is in good form, having captured 36 wickets in the last five Sheffield Shield matches for New South Wales. He was looking forward to partnering Lyon.

“I enjoy playing with Nathan, he is a humble, lovely guy whom I admire a lot and fingers crossed we can get that opportunity again,” he said. “There are a couple of situations we have bowled the majority of the overs and enjoyed going each side of the bat.”

The West Indies historically has had problems confronting spin at SCG. It has not won a Test in Sydney since 1961, and the last time it played at the SCG in 2001, MacGill bagged seven wickets.

Australia has amassed 1313 runs for the loss of ten wickets over two matches, while the cumulative total of the West Indies stands at 924 for 38, with Shannon Gabriel being absent hurt in both the innings in the first Test.

Smith, who topped the Test batting list for 2015 with 1474 runs at 73.70 including six centuries, would hope to continue his love affair with the venue where he has scored centuries in his previous two Tests at the start of a new year.

Jason Holder, the West Indies skipper, was hopeful of finishing a disappointing tour on an upswing. “Our bowlers still need to be a lot more disciplined than we are at the moment,” he said. “The pitches have been very good for batting. We've been allowing them to score both sides of the wicket, and we haven't been able to contain them and control the game.”


Australia: David Warner, Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith (capt), Adam Voges, Mitch Marsh, Peter Nevill (wk), Steve O'Keefe, James Pattinson, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon.

West Indies (from): Kraigg Brathwaite, Rajendra Chandrika, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Jermaine Blackwood, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Jason Holder (capt), Carlos Brathwaite, Kemar Roach, Jerome Taylor, Devendra Bishoo, Jomel Warrican.

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