Stephen O'Keefe has been backed for a maiden Ashes tour as Nathan Lyon's understudy after a match-turning display that has the NSW Blues on the charge in the JLT Sheffield Shield.

O'Keefe took nine wickets in the Blues' thrilling final-day win against Western Australia, including the key scalp of WA batter Cameron Bancroft that broke the game open.

Of all the issues facing Australia heading into this year's Ashes series in England where they will seek to end an 18-year drought without an away series win, the first-choice front-line spinner is solved, with Nathan Lyon an automatic start in the Test XI.

But a lengthy Ashes tour usually involves selecting a back-up spinner although Australia took only Nathan Hauritz in 2009, then failed to play him on a dustbowl at The Oval in the final Test.

Lyon's status is underlined by the 20 wickets he took in just six innings of Shield cricket before this summer's Test action, a figure that is only superseded this season by the 22 taken by Queensland leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson who has bowled in 11 innings this season.

Swepson was this week dropped by the Bulls for their Gabba showdown with NSW as they recalled tall speedster Billy Stanlake for a long-awaited return to red-ball cricket.

In eight Shield innings this summer O'Keefe has taken 16 wickets and his economy rate of 2.19 runs per over is the best in the competition of any bowler to have sent down five or more overs.

"Absolutely, SOK's record is second to none," NSW captain Peter Nevill said if he thought O'Keefe should be in the mix for the Ashes touring party.

"He's performed for such a long period of time for us, he ticked off 200 first-class wickets in the last game, took nine in match, and is one of the best spinners going around at the minute.

"Nathan Lyon is our No.1, there's no doubt about that, but SOK is certainly putting his hand up for the No.2 spot."

O'Keefe, however, may have to leapfrog Victoria tweaker Jon Holland in the pecking order if he's to book a plane ticket to the UK.

Holland was Lyon's deputy against Pakistan last October, Australia's last away Test tour, and took four wickets during the two-Test series, all of them in Dubai.

His Shield return this summer has seen him claim 15 wickets in seven innings at 31.80, and he was selected in the Australia A side that faced Sri Lanka in Hobart indicating he remains high in selectors' thoughts.

Nevill himself is coveting a spot as back-up to captain Tim Paine on the Ashes tour, a role he held in 2015 that led to his Test debut at Lord's when Brad Haddin withdrew for personal reasons.

"I certainly set it out as a goal at the start of the year. But there's people around the country who have been doing very well," Nevill said.

"If I can finish the season really strongly, perhaps, who knows, and making runs at the right time helps.

"I'd love to be on that tour but at the moment I've got to focus on what's right in front of me."

Australia have shown a willingness to hand the gloves to a part-time keeper in the white-ball formats in recent times, with Peter Handscomb deposing T20 vice-captain Alex Carey in Australia's historic series win against India this week.

Handscomb or Cameron Bancroft could ably fill that back-up role if selected on the Ashes tour and an untimely ailment struck down Paine, but Nevill, however, cautioned the pressure-cooker of an Ashes required a dedicated gloveman.

"I know from experience it's a tough place to keep wickets over there. There's a lot of turbulence on the Dukes ball when it gets past the bat and it can be quite a handful," Nevill said.

"I'd always be looking to take my best keeper."

Nevill struck a century in the Blues' win over WA, his first of the summer, and executed a sharp piece of work that stumped Bancroft off O'Keefe's bowling to blow the game open for his side.

"I feel like I've been keeping well all season," he said. "I was rapt with that Bancroft dismissal, it was a key moment in game that changed game in our favour.

"But I can only pump up SOK's tyres. He's the one who gets the credit there, all I had to do was take the bails off, he's the one who lured him out of his crease."