Holland a bolter for injured O'Keefe

Victorian tweaker a like-for-like replacement as injury forces Australia to call for back-up

Jon Holland is all but assured of being capped Australia's 444th Test cricketer in Galle next week now that a hamstring strain has prematurely ended fellow spinner Steve O'Keefe's tour of Sri Lanka.

Holland, uncapped at international level having made his first-class debut for Victoria in 2008, will join the Test squad over the weekend as the second specialist spinner behind Nathan Lyon.

With pitch conditions for the second Test in Galle, starting next Thursday, and the final match in Colombo expected to heavily favour spin, Holland will only need to remain fit and show that he's ready for action at training to receive his call-up.

His good fortune is also a bitter blow for O'Keefe who is understood to be devastated by the injury blow having waited in Lyon's shadow and played only two Tests since his debut against Pakistan in the UAE in 2014.

O'Keefe forced off with hamstring injury

The left-arm spinner, who starred in Australia's pre-Test warm-up game in Colombo and had captured three wickets in the first Test at Pallekele to date, hurt his right leg when chasing a ball to the boundary shortly after lunch on yesterday's third day.

He attempted to bowl an over shortly after, but having delivered just two balls he was forced to leave the field and did not re-appear as Australia's remaining bowlers struggled to make a breakthrough throughout a torrid third afternoon.

"Initial assessment indicates a moderate grade hamstring injury which means it is highly unlikely that he will be available for the remainder of the Test series," Australia's Bupa Support Team physiotherapist David Beakley said in Kandy today.

"Steve will remain with the squad in Kandy until the end of the Test and will undertake imaging on the injury upon his return to Australia."

Given that even low-grade hamstring injuries require a minimum of two weeks recovery time, his Test tour is effectively over.

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Despite playing only two Sheffield Shield games last season for Victoria, where he has often operated as the second-choice spinner behind 2015 Ashes tourist Fawad Ahmed, Holland was a star of the Bushrangers Shield Final victory over South Australia in Adelaide last March,

The left-arm orthodox spinner took eight wickets in the match, and not only does he provide a like-for-like replacement for O'Keefe he crucially comes with vast experience that is expected to see him settle into Test cricket without too many hiccups.

As coach Darren Lehmann said of O'Keefe in the lead-up to the first Test, his inclusion was partly predicated on the philosophy that the team "knew what it was getting" in terms of his skills and experience.

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"It is incredibly disappointing for Steve to get this injury and I really feel for him," chair of the national selection panel Rod Marsh said in Kandy today.

"He was bowling well in the Test and had caused some trouble to Sri Lanka's top order.

"The selectors have decided to go for a like-for-like replacement for Steve, in Jon Holland.

"Jon had a good end to the Sheffield Shield season and is currently in Brisbane with Australia A as they prepare for a four-day match against South Africa A.

"He will be on a plane as soon as possible and is a strong chance to make his debut in the Galle Test."

Holland's selection seems to signal the end of Fawad's international aspirations, given the man who was considered the second-best spin option in Australia last year would also have offered the benefit of a bowler able to spin the ball away from Sri Lanka's surfeit of top-order right handers.

Australia enter the fourth day of the opening Test at Kandy facing a deficit of 196 and with four Sri Lankan second innings wickets still intact, although light rain on the fourth morning delayed the resumption of play.