Shock contract loss for NSW spinner

Former Test spinner Stephen O’Keefe’s first-class career is over after he became a shock omission from the NSW player contract list for next summer. O’Keefe confirmed his retirement from Sheffield Shield on Sunday but said he would continue playing Big Bash for the Sydney Sixers.

The left-arm tweaker played nine Tests for Australia and took 35 wickets, including 12 in a match to beat India in Pune in 2017.

Stephen O’Keefe played two Tests in Australia, both at the SCG. Picture: Brett CostelloSource:News Corp Australia

The 35-year-old also took 16 wickets at 22.25 for NSW as they won the Sheffield Shield last summer, the most scalps of any spinner in the competition. Despite no obvious other spin options when Nathan Lyon is unavailable through Test duties, O’Keefe was told he wouldn’t be retained.

O’Keefe said he was disappointed but accepted the decision.

“It’s been such a privilege to play for my country and captain my state but above everything else I’m most proud to have played alongside some of the best blokes I’ve ever met,” he said.

“When I think about my time playing cricket, that’s what I’ll miss most.” NSW’s only other real spin option this summer was youngster Jason Sangha, but he only bowled two overs in the red-ball competition.

Stephen O’Keefe reacts as smoke from the NSW bushfires blankets the Sydney Cricket Ground during a Sheffield Shield match between NSW and Queensland at the SCG. Picture: Phil HillyardSource:News Corp Australia

The Blues could now be forced to look elsewhere for a spinner, or take a punt on a non-established player.

O’Keefe has battled calf injuries in recent years, but still looked as if he could continue playing for longer.

He will finish his first-class career with 301 wickets at 24.66. His haul makes him the third most successful left-arm spinner in Shield history behind Englishman Tony Lock and Victorian Ray Bright.

It will be at international level where O’Keefe is best remembered. His figures of 6-35 in both innings in Pune in 2017 were the best match figures by an overseas spinner in India in history.

Stephen O’Keefe intends to continue to play for the Sixers in the Big Bash. Picture. Phil HillyardSource:News Corp Australia

After making his debut in Dubai in 2004, he played his last Test in Bangladesh in 2017.

Often the second spin choice in Asia, he also played two Tests on home soil, picking up wickets against the West Indies and Pakistan at the SCG in 2016 and 2017.

However has since been leapfrogged by Mitchell Swepson in the Test pecking order, while Ashton Agar has also come into the extended squad in recent years.

Originally published asShock contract loss for NSW spinner

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