Peter Siddle © Getty Images
Peter Siddle will look to keep fit ahead of the third Test at Sydney © Getty Images

Peter Siddle is the only man not playing over the net’s on the New Years Eve as he will have to overcome years of Australian fast bowling practice in order to take his place in the XI for the Sydney Test. It is customary for the Test team’s pace bowlers to have a stint in the nets two days out before a match and then rest up as much as possible on match eve. However Siddle is nursing an ankle complaint that restricted him on the fourth and final day of the Boxing Day Test, and was given leave to wait another day before he returned to the bowling crease. Team management were at pains to make it clear that Siddle had not been ruled out of the match, but the weight of history suggests that he is facing an uphill battle to take his place in the side. FULL SCORECARD: Australia vs West Indies, 3rd Test at Sydney

As reported on espncricinfo, another factor in the selectors’ thinking will be the availability of the left-arm spin bowler Steve O’Keefe, an Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) expert who is eager to bowl in pace with Nathan Lyon in a home Test for the first time. “Nathan’s the No. 1 and he’s a genius at the moment, he’s earned that right and I admire it,” O’Keefe said. “I want to work with him, because he’s such a nice guy, he’s always forthcoming with ways of helping to improve my bowling and the team, and that’s something that makes me feel comfortable when I’m around this squad. I’m just excited to have that opportunity, fingers crossed that I can do that here.”

“The privileged position I’ve been in, with Nathan’s comeback, the New South Wales (NSW) selectors have shown faith in playing both of us together, whether that be the Gabba or the WACA, and it’s just extra learning experience. Sometimes even if conditions don’t suit, they put the faith in us as two of our best bowlers here in NSW and that’s a great thing. With the year that we won the Shield we had a couple of good performances together, to play two spinners in a Shield final is a pretty cool thing to happen I guess. At times like at Wagga, at Bankstown, there’s been situations where Nathan and I have bowled the majority of the overs and just enjoyed going each side of the bat.” ALSO READ: Australia wary of West Indies despite latter’s poor show in tour match: Peter Siddle

O’Keefe is realises that the year starts with this Test and the tour with Sri Lanka later, offering with it the opportunity to add to his one match so far, against Pakistan in Dubai in 2014. However he is also trying to ensure he concentrates on what is in front of him, having come a long way since he was first spoken of as a possible Australian player during the ignoble Ashes summer of 2010-11. “I certainly think over the last five years I’ve got better and better,” he said. “The benefit you get of not being picked is you go back to Shield cricket and learn your craft, and that’s the best place to learn. I’ve notched up maybe 40 games since then, and you certainly do learn. I’m certainly in a better place than I was five years ago, without a doubt.” ALSO READ: Steve O’Keefe banks on UAE experience for Bangladesh campaign

“You just get a bit more confidence and belief in your game, you work on some subtleties, but let’s be honest as a finger spinner you’re not working with a huge armoury, but you just feel confident on different wickets, assessing conditions and batters better and quicker, and that’s a huge thing you develop over time with having success. There’s a lot of cricket coming up in regards to going to the subcontinent, but you can’t look too far ahead. There’s a lot of cricket between now and then, Shield cricket for NSW in which we know how cutthroat this can be, so for me the focus will be on doing well for NSW. If you win Shields and put good performances on the board, it certainly helps your case.”