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O'Keefe haul in tour match raises hopes of test selection

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Steve O'Keefe's five-wicket haul in the tour match in Sri Lanka has raised his hopes of selection for Australia in the test series with regular spinner Nathan Lyon.

Left-arm spinner O'Keefe took 5-43 at the P Sara Oval in Colombo as Australia dominated the opening day of their sole practice match before the series opener in Pallekele next week.

Lyon went wicketless for 72 runs against the Sri Lanka Board XI but is unlikely to be dropped for the three-test series which is expected to feature drier wickets.

O'Keefe, who made his test debut away against Pakistan in 2014, played only his second match in January, teaming up with Lyon at the spin-friendly Sydney Cricket Ground against West Indies.

The pair took three wickets apiece in the first innings of the rain-hit match.

O'Keefe returned marginally better figures than Lyon in both his test appearances but said he was still very much the 28-year-old's understudy.

"He's a bit of a role model of mine and a bit of a mentor when it comes to spin bowling," the Malaysia-born 31-year-old said.

"I've always looked up to him in his career and how he's gone about his business.

"He's verging on a couple of hundred test wickets now so there's a truck load of experience and knowledge that I try to get out of him.

"And when the big occasions come up he's always stood up to the challenge.

"He's in a good place and I feel extremely privileged to bowl with him at the other end."

O'Keefe added that Lyon had been "battling a little bit of sickness" but was bowling "beautifully".

Australia have hired former Sri Lanka spin great Muttiah Muralitharan as a coaching consultant in a key to unlock the hosts on their own pitches and O'Keefe said he was relishing the 44-year-old's advice.

"The beauty of Murali (is) he's always got something to say to you," he said.

"He'll come up after each session and spell, and give you hints whether it be about the field or how they might play.

"So he's been a massive help ... and you can't underestimate what it's like having a guy like that who's played a majority of his career in these conditions."

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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