O’Keefe eyeing return to form with Australia ‘A’

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New South Wales all-rounder Stephen O’Keefe, ahead of his call-up to the Aussie ‘A’ tour matches in Townsville, has spoken about his rehabilitation from a shoulder reconstruction and praised the preseason form of a number of Blues teammates.

On the back of impressive form domestically in Shield and One Day cricket, the man known as SOK has earned his third ever call-up to the Australia ‘A’ touring party. During the 2010 tour, he famously knocked over English Test cricketer Kevin Pietersen twice in the space of seven deliveries.

After taking a competition leading 41 wickets in last season’s Championship winning Shield season, he’ll be looking to use the four-day tour matches against South Africa ‘A’ to regain some form following offseason shoulder surgery.

“With the help of the physios here at NSW Cricket, the shoulder is pretty much back to about 90%,” he said reflecting on his progress since the reconstruction.

“It’s a huge privilege and honour to be able to play with some of the country’s finest players, and hopefully (I can) put a strong performance on the board.

“(I’m looking forward to) being able to get that confidence up after the shoulder reconstruction. You can do all the stuff in the nets that you like, but being able to get out there on the turf and playing in the sun will certainly help, and it’s a great preseason starter for me given the schedule is going to be jam-packed full of Cricket.

“I’m excited to be getting out and playing some Cricket. I’ve had 5 months off, and I think two-weeks are enough before I started getting hungry to play. I’m just keen to get back out there and show that I’m good to go.”

While undergoing injury rehabilitation, O’Keefe has been a part of the preseason training alongside Blues teammates, and has singled out a number of squad members whose early form has been eye catching, including 2013-14 Steve Waugh Medallist, Sean Abbott.

“He’s such an outstanding all-round Cricketer and he is one guy I would be expecting big things from this year,” said O’Keefe on 21-year-old Abbott, who has played a starring role for the National Performance Squad throughout their Quadrangular One Day Series in Darwin.

“Not only with the ball - he was outstanding in Shield Cricket last year with the ball, but with the bat as well. He’s got a lot to show and prove to everyone that he is a very good batter as well as bowler.

“Another all-rounder Moises Henriques, who I think is improving each year that he plays, getting better and better. And you’ve got Josh Hazlewood who, again, we’ll see him in Aussie colours with a baggy green I’m sure at some this year.

“All the guys in the NSW squad, we haven’t lost anyone. We’ve kept the same squad and if not improved, being a season wiser. It’s going to be exciting again, and I’m just looking forward to seeing these guys develop and hopefully winning games for NSW firstly, and then going on and playing for Australia.”

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