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Niranjan Kuppan

What is both surprising and unsurprising about Liverpool’s season ahead is that they’d do well to finish fifth, a position they’d have clinched last season had it not been for a downward slide towards the end.

Fifth.

A number that would read marginally better than last season’s finish, but would still fall short of a Champions League place.

Fifth.

A prediction shared by almost all pundits alike, despite promising signs of this season’s squad scoring more, conceding less.

Fifth.

Not top four, therefore, irrelevant.

There were more questions raised, than answers received following Liverpool’s forgettable visit to Stoke City last season. An embarrassing 6-1 score line aside, the infamous Sterling saga, heavy transfer spending, backroom sackings, and a daunting away fixture list constitute a cocktail of issues that are likely to decide Brendan Rodgers’ future if things don’t go as per plan. The long, laundry lists of preseason epitaphs did little to convince doubters that the following season would be better.

On the bright side, Rodgers would argue, Liverpool were still relevant enough to attract the likes of Roberto Firmino, a player who’s ability more than fills in for Sterling’s loss and Nathaniel Clyne, England’s soon-t0-be first choice Right Back.

The transfer window as a whole otherwise, in short, has been a mixed bag. Joe Gomez, following an impressive pre-season looks a bargain at 3 million, whereas the price tag hanging around Benteke’s neck, for no fault of his, would add pressure to a frontline, always in the midst of Sturridge’s fitness rants, that lacked confidence and composure in front of goal last season.

Goals aside, Liverpool’s defence has hardly had the revamp that would match the unparalleled meanness of champions defending their goal. 2013/14 was a season where a poor defence was lost in significance to one of Europe’s best attacking units. 2014/15, after the sale of Suarez, and the loss of Sturridge, for most part, due to injury, bought to surface the issues that had already been perennial during the seasons preceding.

  1. You know you have problems when your captain shouldn’t feature in your Best XI

Controversial as this may sound, let us face it.

Jordan Henderson is a good player. A very good player. He’s an engine that can run for 90 minutes, or 120 minutes. Heck, he’d run from the halfway line to take a penalty if the game goes to the very end.

He makes the occasional incisive pass, presses well. He behaves well both on and off the field. He is level-headed, dedicated, committed, a good student – ticking most of the qualities one would expect in a Liverpool captain.

Henderson, now 25, is the full time captain of Liverpool FC, far away from any distractions surrounding the man he replaced, who is now plying his trade thousands of miles away in a league irrelevant to Europe as baseball is to cricket.

But Steven Gerrard, at the same age, had led Liverpool to Champions League glory in Istanbul, was coveted by Real Madrid and Chelsea for world record transfer fees, whilst being described by Zidane as the most complete midfielder ever.

Henderson, despite making significant strides in improvement, isn’t a name that would offer opposing managers headaches. There isn’t any other midfield in the top 4 of any league he’d walk in to, not to demean his status, but to merely state that being very good doesn’t warrant a place in the XI. This facet, in particular, has more to do with a Liverpool captain, than Henderson himself.

Liverpool's Best XI for 2015/16

Liverpool’s Best XI for 2015/16

Henderson lacks the composure that define great midfielders. His tactical awareness, at best, is average, while his passing under pressure still raises questions. His performances against big clubs (and England) add fuel to this theory.

If Liverpool play a 4 – 3 – 3 or a 4 – 2 – 3 – 1, Milner, Can and Coutinho warrant those three places in midfield ahead of Henderson for the various qualities they possess, as a unit. Henderon’s qualities overlap with that of Milner’s. They are too similar to feature in the same XI.

 

  1. The Central Defence pairings are two good Center Backs away from being water tight

Before you think why these points spiral towards negativity, it is important to assess if any of Sakho, Lovren or Skrtel would walk in to the XI of any other top 4 club in Europe. Skrtel has been walking the tightrope for a few seasons now, while Lovren has made us wonder what was wrong with Toure at all. Toure’s theatricals at Fulham two seasons ago is now a forgotten memory. Djimi Traore rises to significance in comparison.

Lovren did little during the preseason to convince his doubters wrong. Sakho’s periodic appearances point more towards Rodgers’ lack of trust in the Frenchman, than his own performances. Skrtel still remains the most obvious choice by a distant, despite his many misgivings.

With no defensive midfielder as a reliable shield in front of them, there’s little reassurance that Liverpool won’t ship more goals than their top 4 competitors this season.

Did Liverpool miss a trick in not signing a proven center back (again?)? Or a defensive shield in the mould of Gary Medel? Jamie Carragher was surprised by Liverpool’s lack of intent in signing a defensive midfielder. 

Reports linking Liverpool to Gary Medel was encouraging, and made sense. Medel, like most Chileans, is technically sound, tactically intelligent. He is a destroyer, one who can operate as a Ball Winning Midfielder, or a Ball Playing Center Back.

The moment was right to make a bid for him, especially with Inter signing Kongdobia. That Medel has premier league experience – a solitary season with Cardiff – would have been of immense value. And Medel would have made Lovren and Sakho look better.

  1. Technical, Eye-Catching football at the helm again

The backroom reshuffle, unconvincing as the explanations were early summer, has one stark feature in store: if coached well, Liverpool fans can expect technical, eye-catching football from a squad that has talent in abundance up front.

While Coutinho and Firmino carry Brazilian flair, Adam Lallana, with plenty to prove this season, is probably the most Spanish of English players in the league. When coupled with the raw talents of Ibe and Markovic in the wings and a fit Sturridge upfront, the slick passing and movement that the 2013/14 season showcased could be at display again.

Liverpool’s inability to flourish when put under pressure, in tight spaces, was evident during many a game last season. But the revamped coaching staff, on paper and theory, live by the mantras of tactical training.

Steven Gerrard confesses that he’d become a better player since Gary MacAllister turned up in Liverpool colours at the age of 35. Gary Mac, he says in his autobiography, could stop a training session, offer his opinion and everyone, including the coaches, would be all ears.

As a full time coach, MacAllister can carry a greater influence amongst the younger crop alongside Sean O’Driscoll to exert the style and technique required to exhibit such football.

  1. Remove the deadwood before it turns in to Adebayor. 

Some of the investments made in players during the Rodgers era were plain disaster – some on par with Houllier’s forgettable signings of Diouf, Diao and Cheyrou.

Borini, Balotelli, and Jose Enrique have been told to find other clubs, while the presence of Allen, who has hardly convinced fans, forget sceptics, over three seasons can count himself very, very fortunate to be among those still being rated by Rodgers. His preseason form did little to justify his place in a match day squad, and an injury has only removed any hope of another club availing his services before the window closes.

Letting their contracts runs through the Adebayor way would do the club, nor the player, any favours.

Lucas Leiva was subject to interest from Italy, but with nothing materializing, he is hardly the defensive screen Liverpool need. Fans would argue that statistics mention that Liverpool have performed better with Lucas in the team. Before we make soap boxes out of stats, it is evident Lucas isn’t the force he once was.

His tactical intelligence is of no doubt, his mobility and pace, although, is. Liverpool are in dire need of a midfield presence – one who can break attacks, and in layman terms, do the dirty job. Matic, Coquelin, Fernandinho (to an extent) have shown their influence in the role for their clubs, whereas Liverpool haven’t had a genuine one since the days of Masceranho.

Which resurfaces the Medel miss again.

  1. The need for European nights – even if it is the Europa League

A tame away performance against Besiktas last season saw Liverpool miss out on a chance to progress in a competition where they might have stood a chance to win as long as they’d stayed in it.

There is enough squad cover to compete and put a show in multiple competitions. Liverpool stand a better chance of qualifying to the Champions League by winning the Europa league next season, than finishing in the top 4. One of the Manchester clubs would have to slip to entertain such a thought.

 

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Niranjan Kuppan & Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

Andy S Grove, Intel’s former CEO, writes in his award winning book Only the Paranoid Survive that “The Person who is the star of the previous era is often the last one to adopt to change, the last one to yield to logic of a strategic inflection point, and tends to fall harder than most”.

A strategic inflection point, he goes on to describe, is “a time in the life of business when its fundamentals are about to change. That change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end”.

It is fair to say that football clubs, these days, can be looked up on as businesses – ones that thrive on investment, by virtue of which trophies and fans are won. Most football clubs have built their successes based on their past, historical times during which the breath of a club was stronger than its bank balance.

The bank balance of a club, today, plays as much a role in its success as it has always done in a sport like Formula One. Catheram and Marusia, for instance, struggle because they aren’t financially as sound as some of their other competitors, and the entire cycle is influenced as a result of that. If money can buy success these days, it is important to have the right people who put the money in to good use.

Football isn’t very dis-similar. With a plethora of investors throwing their currencies on clubs across Europe, clubs are increasingly becoming aware of the need to spend big, and more importantly, spend wise. Gone are those days where one could point fingers at the likes of Manchester City, or Chelsea, or PSG. Their argument would be simple – they’ve invested the money a lot more wisely than some of the other ‘big’ clubs.

This brings me back to what Andy S Grove stresses, repeatedly, in his book. When a business achieves success, the investment comes in. The leader of the organization is expected to put the money in to good use assessing the business circumstances – market needs, competition, future trends and so on and so forth.

There’s an interesting analogy that leaders use – that a great leader would have a microscope in one eye, and a telescope in the other. Try it and I’ll be surprised if you don’t get a headache. What this means is: a leader is aware of the short term goals that the business needs to achieve, yet aware of the long term vision for the organization.

Out of ideas? A common sight these days with Brendan Rodgers

Out of ideas? A common sight these days with Brendan Rodgers © Daily Mail

In footballing terms, a long term vision could be to improve the standards of a club’s academy thereby nurturing players who would become first team regulars in the long run. Or investing in young talent, through the help of a scouting system, from outside the club before their market value exponentially rises. This would save a lot of costs in the long run because the primary needs are being served by the organization from within.

A short term vision, on the other hand, would be taking the necessary measures to ensure that for the following season, the resources are intact to match the club’s success over the previous year, if not out-perform. These could be players who fill in to address a void due to the loss of a key resource, or coaches that provide valuable back-room addition to improve on aspects where there were noticeable deficiencies.

Let me get to the point. Liverpool FC find themselves at the helm of an inflexion point. The success that the 2013-14 season had bought the club, instead of leap-frogging a desire to reach higher standards, has sent the club on a roller coaster ride, in reverse gear.

I am not seeking an opportunity to blamestorm here, I am a fan, and I will always ride through the highs and lows of the Liverpool family. What bemuses me, though, is a set of aberrant errors made by, understandably, a manager at the start of his career – very young by footballing standards.

So let us begin with the long term vision. Liverpool’s academy has historically been a renowned one that has seen its graduates, to quote a few from the contemporary era, like Owen, Fowler, Gerrard, Carragher and Sterling, albeit through different circumstances, rise to great heights in the footballing circles. There is sufficient evidence to support the fact that the yesteryear managers of Liverpool FC, even until the likes of Houllier and Benitez had a strong team marshalling the academy to churn our first team material graduates.

Although the academy can’t be faulted for its deficiencies, it is clear that Rodger’s inclination towards not using them points our fingers towards two possible explanations: one, that the support system that once existed through the likes of ex-Liverpool players, Steve Heighway and Phil Thompson for instance, has robbed the academy of the passion that otherwise would’ve been driven through men who knew the club best.

The other explanation could be his own reluctance, for reasons he knows best. We aren’t qualified to comment on this, nevertheless, this will rob Rodgers off one of a characteristic that could have otherwise backed him during these turbulent times. Every football fan derives great pleasure from seeing their academy graduates being tested on the biggest arena – regardless of whether they succeed or fail.

There’s still hope on players like Flanagan, Ibe, Wisdom and Rossiter who will be expected by the fans to feature in greater prominence in the seasons ahead. This does not deter fans from questioning some of Rodger’s decisions to invest in the transfer market, heavily, on players who are similar to those graduating from the academy with promise. Joao Carlos Tiexiera and Suso are examples of creative, attacking talent who could have been nurtured, instead of investing for similar roles heavily in the transfer market.

This brings us to the short term vision. Given the ascent to Champions league football, and fuelled ambitions that called for the Premier League title after over two decades worth of wait, there were two concerns that the club had to address: lack of squad depth, and replacing arguably the best player of the Premier League over the course of the 2013-14 season.

Defeat to Crystal Palace left most fans hoping that this would be rock bottom

Defeat to Crystal Palace left most fans hoping that this would be rock bottom © LiverpoolEcho

Metaphorically, Steven Gerrard may be the engine of the team, but the team wouldn’t have run had it not been for Suarez and his extraordinary feats. It would be unfair to question Rodgers tactics of investing heavily around other positions – yes, the squad did need the depth but not without replacing the engine. It hardly matters if an aeroplane has a new landing gear – the engine needs to be new, if not newly overhauled.

Blame it on Liverpool’s recent branding as a second tier footballing city, Rodgers’ experience, rather the lack of it, as a manager of a top football club or the reluctance to spend big on a particular player, the summer transfer window of Liverpool FC resembled that of Spurs last season. Failure to learn from Tottenham’s debacle of trying to replace Bale with an extra team bus had fuelled comparisons sooner than say, at the end of the season.

Rodgers would wish he could eat his words from last year when he’d, arrogantly so, stated that any team that had spent over a 100 million should be competing for the title. He finds himself sailing the same boat, raising more questions than answers to the ever-demanding audience of the Premier League.

Arsene Wenger, despite his record of signing young talents, invested in experienced players who could deliver from day one – over the last few years, names like Mertesacker, Cazorla, Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud resonate with this theme.

Balotelli and Lallana came in with proven Premier League Experience. Their starts couldn't have been more contrasting. ©  LiverpoolEcho

Balotelli and Lallana came in with proven Premier League Experience. Their starts couldn’t have been more contrasting. © LiverpoolEcho

Rodgers, on the other hand, barring an unwanted Balotelli, and Lallana, cannot claim to have signed  ‘first team material’. This would beg the question as to why Liverpool were unable to sign a ‘marquee player’ this summer to take over Suarez’s mantle. Whether you blame it on Rodgers ambition, rather the lack of it, or the brand value Liverpool carries today, the manager is answerable.

To sum it up, Rodgers’ failings over the last few months is indicative of a ship that is about to hit an iceberg. What is clear now is that the iceberg is visible, the question is: who is going to steer the ship away from an impending disaster?

Onwards and upwards.


Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

I couldn’t miss out on a chance to visit an arena whose prodigal sons include the likes of Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Estadio Jose Alvalade - Sporting CP, Lisbon

Estadio Jose Alvalade – Sporting CP, Lisbon

Sporting Club de Portugal (Sporting CP), known outside of Portugal as Sporting Lisbon, is one of the Tres Grandes, meaning ‘Big Three’, clubs of Portugal – the other two being neighbor SL Benfica and FC Porto. I was in Lisbon on business when I decided to sneak in for a 45 minute tour of Estadio Jose Alvalade with four other Irish guys.

The stadium can host around 50000 spectators

The stadium can host around 50000 spectators

Founded in the year 1906 as a club that broke away from Campo Grande SC, Sporting CP’s new stadium, unveiled in 2003, is one of the three in Portugal which is certified ‘5 star’ by UEFA. This implies that the stadium is eligible to host finals of UEFA events – the semifinal of UEFA 2004, between Netherlands and Portugal, was played here at the Estadio Jose Alvalade. Portugal marched on to the finals, only to be halted by a resolute Greek team which registered a shocking win under the shrewd, but ultra-defensive, tactics of Otto Rehhagal.

View from Presidential Box Seats

View from Presidential Box Seats

Strangely, the first game played at the new stadium was a friendly between Sporting CP and Manchester United, a game in which the home team won 3-1, but lost a young star in Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United. Signed for a sum of 12 million pounds with add-ons, it is believed that Ronaldo’s magnificent performance against Manchester United tempted Ferguson to lay an attractive offer on the table immediately after the game. John O’ Shea, whose role was to mark Cristiano Ronaldo in that game, in Ferguson’s own words “could get nowhere close to him.”

Cristiano Ronaldo played 25 games for Sporting CP, and wore the Number 28 Jersey

Cristiano Ronaldo played 25 games for Sporting CP, and wore the Number 28 Jersey

The stadium also hosted the UEFA Cup final in 2005, when the home team Sporting CP, as hosts, lost 1-3 to CSKA Moscow. Sporting CP currently stand second in the table behind derby rivals Benfica SL. To their credit, Sporting CP currently have a squad capable to compete with the very best in European football.

The Press Room at Estadio Jose Alvalade can seat up to 125 people

The Press Room at Estadio Jose Alvalade can seat up to 125 people

But given that they aren’t among the Europe’s most elite, the financial muscle of ‘bigger’ clubs have often prized away their talented youngsters. Apart from Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo, players such as Simao, Ricardo Quaresma, Joao Moutinho, Miguel Veloso, Nani, and even legendary Danish goal-keeper Peter Schmeichel plied their trades here before moving to other elite clubs in Europe.

The Museum houses trophies won across multiple sports - Football, Futsal, Athletics, Handball

The Museum houses trophies won by Sporting CP across multiple sports – Football, Futsal, Athletics, Handball

One of the most sought after youngsters is William Carvalho, an Angolan born Portuguese international with three caps to his name. At 21 years of age, and an imposing frame at 6 foot and 3 inches, he’s a defensive midfielder who has been likened to Ivory Coast international and Manchester City super-star Yaya Toure. Carvalho has a release clause of 35 million Euros, and is being sought out by Premiership side Manchester United.

The stadium houses a museum right next to which is the table where players sign their contracts with the management

The stadium houses a museum right next to which is the table where players sign their contracts with the management

Rumors are afloat at Lisbon that Manchester United may break their bank to land the youngster whose wages will rise by an incredible 30 times! He’s currently at an appalling salary bracket of 5000 Euros per month, a sum that Wayne Rooney earns for a few hours of football. But given their struggles in midfield, it is said that David Moyes is seeking a towering presence in midfield, owing to the below-average performances of Belgian midfielder Marouanne Fellaini this season.


It is something of an unfortunate oddity that the first test of the 2013 Ashes will be remembered more for dubious umpiring decisions as against the tide of sinusoidal sessions that have tilted the scales back and forth.

Swann’s exploits on a fourth day turner shifted the focus from otherwise folkloristic fervors provided by Bell, Broad and Beer (did you observe the stands these days?) all day. Swann’s delivery to dismiss Phil Hughes tested the very limits of technology, fractional math and yet another umpire’s uncertainty. Though Dharmasena can be absolved of blame in this instance. Technology won, and as many voices echoed, Cook has been the wiser of the two captains in effectively putting the DRS to use.

With a target of 300+ on the cards given the way Broad and Bell closed Day 3, Australia did well enough to restrict the lead to 310. A brilliant fight back followed Bell’s, possibly, match-winning century, and Broad’s fighting fifty. Siddle cleaned off the lower order to take his tally to 8 for the match. On a slow, low wicket, Siddle’s performance has been very commendable.

Australia’s response was reminiscent of the team they once were. Watson’s aggression setting the tone for a combative start, at the same time deriving an unspoken sense of satisfaction through Roger’s solid, defensive methods at the other end. Granted, the reality didn’t turn out to be quite as effective as their yesteryear opening stands. Australia’s top order woes continuously point to how no batsman is ready to proclaim a new dawn of Australian supremacy. The elite always ensure self-perpetuation.

Cowan fell victim to Joe Root’s first wicket in Test Cricket, offering a shot similar to that of the one he played against the pace of Finn in the first innings – only to be caught at slip. Earlier, Watson’s unsuccessful use of the DRS, after being trapped in front off a Broad in-swinger, proved yet another case of the all-rounder’s solid start not being converted in to a bigger score.

Rogers laid a strong foundation with his maiden fifty in Australian colors

Chris Rogers, resembling an old, bespectacled, gritty Lance Corporal looked every inch an effective blocker, notching up his first fifty before chipping Anderson to mid-wicket. David Saker’s dramatics from the pavilion indicated a well framed plan to reduce the pace off the odd ball to make Rogers play a touch early. Or whatever it was, it worked.

With much hope sheltering on the willows of Clarke and Smith, a brief spell of play indicated their resilience towards battling it out in the middle. A slow, but steady, progress towards keeping the scoreboard ticking threw brief light on a slow Australian recovery. But Broad and Swann had different ideas.

Within no time, Clarke, to his dismay, yet again inclining towards the DRS, unsuccessfully questioned Aleem Dar’s decision to declare him out caught behind off Broad. Swann sent Smith back after deceiving Smith with his guile, making him play back to a delivery that spun a mile and caught the Aussie trapped plumb in front.

Swann’s role on Day 5 will be critical towards England taking a lead this Ashes

Hughes followed to a successfully DRS-referred lbw decision by England, with Dharmasena turning the initial appeal down. The Sri Lankan couldn’t have been blamed for thinking that the ball pitched outside leg, for the replays showed a very thin margin that had fifty percent of the ball within the danger zone. A whiff the other way would’ve had pundits lauding the precision of Dharmasena’s eagle eye.

Agar’s dynamic innings with happy dashes of flair earned him a promotion up to number 8 in the second innings. Say what you want about him being a debutant, but he kept a still head to face off 24 balls to close off the last session.

With plenty needed for the Australians, England clearly have the upper hand to take a 1-0 lead. Swann holds the key on a wicket that appears to oddly turn like a minefield. But we all know what happened last innings don’t we?


Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

You can carp over England’s performance over the first three days up to a certain point all you like, with a fair sense of justification around loose strokes and a couple of idea-devoid sessions on Day 2. But you can’t accuse them of at least not trying to salvage some morale through responsible batting during the second innings.

Ian Bell, as he’d shown over many an innings post his maturity, finished the day unbeaten on a well-paced 95 – an innings that tilted the scales towards England. He’s mastered the art of wearing down bowlers; waiting for the right occasion to unleash his aesthetic drives through the off-side. He is what the likes of Phil Hughes and Rohit Sharma should become – boys who entered the international scene with immense potential, waiting to grow in to men who can carry the burden of expectations on their shoulders moving forward.

Bell's gritty, unbeaten 95 help steady a ship that otherwise was ready to run off course

Bell’s gritty, unbeaten 95 help steady a ship that otherwise was ready to run off course

Bell’s style is placed on simple principles coupled with a style that pleases the eye. But what he lacked initially was a quality that he’s gained, and gained substantially well over the last three years. The boy became a man with a few match-saving, and winning, innings in South Africa – a fluent 140 followed by a persistent 78 against the likes of Steyn, Morkel and co.

A successful Ashes followed down under, before the perils of the turning ball in the subcontinent raised a few eyebrows over his technique under such conditions. But he’s recovered strong enough to pose as a fulcrum of the middle order at 5 – acting as the meat of the sandwich between the flamboyant, boisterous Pietersen and the exuberant, young Bairstow.

Bell, like Cook and Pietersen earlier, showed a lot of intent towards occupying the crease for as long as he could. So did Broad, who refused to walk after edging one to Clarke at slip off Agar, off a deflection courtesy Haddin’s gloves. Australia had no reviews left.

How Aleem Dar failed to notice that will remain an unsolved mystery. Broad’s deadpan expression following that was a classic. But the notion of walking rarely gets mentioned especially when these two teams meet. England will point to the Hot-Spot blunder that presented Trott his first golden duck in Test Cricket as a karmic equivalence. Clarke didn’t seem too pleased. But the game already has had its fair share of contentious decisions.

Haddin made a nuisance out of himself by dropping Bell in the very next over, a fairly difficult chance though. Australia desperately needed a wicket if their dreams weren’t to feel totally futile. They’d toiled hard to get Pietersen and Cook before lunch, after which Matt Prior threw away his wicket to a needless shot that matched his wicket-throwing first innings stroke.

Australia responded to the doggedness shown by Bell and Broad, but not with too much vigor. Agar got plenty of bounce, showed encouraging signs of proving his mettle as a bowler. It was a shame that his team had no reviews left when Broad smashed one off his edge to Clarke. At the other end, Bell was given plenty of opportunities to commit himself to the expansive drive – a temptation that he intelligently restricted, especially of the bowling of Shane Watson.

He played late, played his shots with soft hands to construct an aptly paced innings given the circumstances. England had plenty of time at their disposal, with an ardent need to keep the scoreboard ticking. Any run rate freeze would’ve exposed them to the risk of a collapse resembling their first innings domino. If a lead of 250 was their first milestone, they got there comfortably with Bell and Broad well stuck in.

The Australians were forced in to redrawing their contingency plans for chasing a score that appeared to cross 300. Not every innings can script a record breaking tenth wicket stand. England’s continued resistance crystallized the notion that they aren’t a weary shadow of the team that clinched the Ashes down under last year.

There was a sense of staleness about the Australian attack when things didn’t go their way. As Broad and Bell ticked on, Pattinson tried every trick in his young repository of skills to reverse the red cherry. His valiant attempts, though, didn’t yield a wicket.

The first session of Day 4 will decide the likely outcome of the first test. Many a skeptics fear of the game unlikely to run on to the fifth day can be buried to rest, unless a dramatic Australian collapse exhibits itself tomorrow. Or if they manage to chase down 300 odd with a series of Agar-ian innings.