NZ staring down the barrel

Posted December 3, 2011 by SJK
Categories: Trans Tasman Trophy

There were seven hours of play today and the test now lies firmly with the hosts. The Gabba continues to remain their fort.

New Zealand have only themselves to blame. They did manage to keep the pressure for two and a half hours before lunch. Two wickets fell and only a hundred runs were scored. Australia still trailed by 40 runs with Haddin and Clarke batting. Both are chancy batsmen and both kept on playing that way. It is in situations like these that captains should never lose the initiative, keep attacking, and make statements to the opposition. I know Taylor had only around two and a half bowlers at his disposal but the body language and the energy levels of the fielding unit were discouraging after lunch. As soon as New Zealand’s total was surpassed, they seemed as though they had conceded a 300 run lead.

Micheal Clarke’s energy levels never dropped. He already had a life yesterday and lady luck stayed with him today as Reece Young and Jesse Ryder put down chances that weren’t straightforward but ones that you would back yourself to take at this level. His shot making was magnificent and runs came at a brisk pace. He is susceptible to a line just outside off stump and he made a conscious effort to leave balls there.

Earlier, Ricky Ponting was dismissed leg before by a typical in coming Chris Martin delivery. Ponting played across and completely missed the line of the ball. As pointed out by, I think, Micheal Slater, his issues are more mind-related. And Clarke’s performances are generally energy-related. It was a good opportunity for Micheal Hussey to score big and bat New Zealand out of the game. He succumbed to a bat-pad off Vettori, pushing forward in defense. Southee and Martin were the main bowlers in the first session with Vettori keeping things tight.

Post lunch, New Zealand needed a good long spell from their fourth bowler and Doug Bracewell actually delivered. Clearly, there were instructions from his captain as to what areas he needed to bowl and he did respond well. Clarke was beaten regularly. An inside edge swung very late, just before Young’s gloves and the chance went a begging. A little wide one was slashed and the ball travelled quickly to Ryder, who spilled the chance at third slip. Haddin, as ever, wasn’t timing the ball early in his innings. He should have been attacked more. The Kiwis should have sent across a message that they were just a wicket away from finishing the innings and starting to build their own lead. Instead, they almost went through the motions.

I couldn’t believe Doug Bracewell was given the second new ball ahead of Southee, at a time Southee could have finished the Aussie lower order. Yes, Bracewell did bowl well before that but Southee was fresh after lunch!

Clarke holed out to deep square leg after tea and Siddle was quickly undone by a brilliant Vettori over. The lead was only fifty by then. Enough pressure wasn’t exerted on Pattinson and Starc and both of them gave Haddin a lot of support for his assault. From Australia’s perspective, Pattinson and Starc can certainly spend some time batting and aren’t complete jokers. But NZ couldn’t even ensure the tailenders’ retaining most of the strike.

This is turning out to be yet another game where NZ have been close but haven’t clinched the game at the key moments. They faced half an hour of chin music from Pattinson and Siddle and in the last half an hour of the day, and lost McCullum. Pattinson looked outstanding with the new ball and looked like picking a wicket every other delivery. Martin Guptill was found fishing from start to finish. He’s still alive though and should realize that the only way New Zealand can save the game is by playing positive cricket. Excessive defense won’t help the cause tomorrow and this line up isn’t good at it either.

Keeper Reece Young was struck hard on the nose by a Vettori delivery that bounced extravagantly. He started bleeding instantaneously. He went away and had ten stitches on the outer lip along with two inside. Brendon McCullum was very much available and it would have been so easy to cool off and return for the second innings. But the man was back on the field, as quickly as he could. Salute him for the spirit he showed today.


Vettori, Ponting and bad light..

Posted December 2, 2011 by SJK
Categories: Trans Tasman Trophy

Conditions in the morning were flatter than those on day one and batting became a much easier art. Pattinson and Starc looked slightly different bowlers but they obviously have enough skill to remain test class bowlers. Vettori and Brownlie continued to prosper and runs came quickly. Bowling teams around the world devise various strategies for various batsmen but they have certainly not realized what kind of a force Vettori can be with the bat. There doesn’t seem to be a specific plan for him and time has come for all opponents to plan and prepare for smart knocks like these. One of the ideas would be to keep bowling a full length on middle and leg (with protection) because he keeps shuffling, and scores a lot through square leg. He makes a mockery of off stump and outside off stump lines by picking those balls early and pulling them to square leg.

Clarke and his men looked clueless till Vettori himself had a brain-snap, when on 96. He had just scored a boundary and certainly wanted to get his hundred in quick time. He had timed the drive to long off well and there was no single on offer. Hussey’s direct hit ended an innings of sheer brilliance, and one which would have taken New Zealand to 350 and more. Peter Siddle was just too good for Reece Young. He was caught on the corridor, edging to first slip. Doug Bracewell was the next man in. He never looked convincing and edged Nathan Lyon to slip. And Ross Taylor’s statements are quickly going to the drain.  Tim Southee played a handy little cameo and helped the total near 300.

Nathan Lyon finished with four wickets and although three of them were tail enders, it was an excellent effort from someone who has never played here. I wonder if not having played at the Gabba actually helped him because Australia generally play four quicks here! Peter Siddle was in good form and Australia will be needing him to fire in the second innings as conditions are likely to get flatter.


When it comes to bowling and fielding, world cricket has few teams more efficient than New Zealand. Warner and Hughes had five minutes to negotiate before lunch. Vettori squeezed in one tight over quickly, and they got another over to have a go at the openers before lunch. Southee’s first ball was short, swinging in towards the left handed Warner. The direction and the bounce were perfect. Warner didn’t have time to drop his gloves and the Kiwis had a breakthrough in four minutes.

Chris Martin is more effective to the left handers because he has a natural delivery that goes away from them. Phil Hughes got an edge to one such delivery and Martin Guptill completed a fine catch at gully, diving low to his right. Khawaja and Ponting steadied the ship after the two early wickets. Both of them played to the merit of the ball. Ponting looked to score on every opportunity. The Channel Nine team did pick two or three occasions where his technique looked short of the mark. On one, the head was a yard away from the line of the ball while defending. Too much of his body weight was falling towards cover-point and he was clearly falling over. The encouraging thing for all his fans is that the boundary shots are still coming freely. But surely, he is not as high on confidence as, may be, on determination.

Ponting wanted a single on the very first ball after tea, a single which gave an indication that he wanted to get off strike as soon as possible at the start of the new session. South Africa is the only other team that would have managed to pull off a run out on this occasion. Kane Williamson pounced on the ball, picked it up cleanly and an underarm throw on the dive proved curtains for Usman Khawaja. I am sure more senior batsmen at the other end would have refused the single, because this wasn’t good running but an effort to get to the non striker’s end after a 20 minute break.

That run out sparked off a period where New Zealand exerted pressure on the batsmen, after Khawaja and Ponting had calmed things down. Southee got great shape and maintained good line outside off. Chris Martin bowled a spell of inswingers  at an awkward length that troubled Ponting.  The short leg for Martin was surprisingly absent and on one occasion, he survived a bat pad. The close in fielder did come a few overs later but he should have been there since the beginning. I did wonder if Brendon McCullum should have been given the job now and Taylor a couple of more seasons’ time. McCullum is proactive and is very much involved in the affairs, but as captain, his on-field decisions would be made earlier!

Micheal Clarke looked all class as he arrived. One moment of indecision nearly cost him his wicket. He half- left a ball which eventually took his bottom edge and hit the stumps. But Doug Bracewell had overstepped. I can’t remember any major chance apart from this. Vettori bowled well with his variations but he would be more useful with some turn on this pitch. I don’t know how much effort is being put in to impart turn on the ball as over the years, he’s been picking wickets only with his variations. On the whole, Ponting and Clarke had a relatively easy time as there were only two and a half bowlers, effectively. Martin was easily negotiable and Vettori and Southee were the real pressure bowlers. I will certainly try Trent Boult in place of Bracewell, at Hobart.

First session tomorrow is big. Two early wickets will bring in Haddin and the long tail. Remember, there is no Johnson around this time. If there is bright sunshine in the morning, these two and Hussey could make quick runs and New Zealand could be under pressure in the third innings. Southee holds the key.

There was some debate regarding umpires not having to offer light to the batsmen, and having to take their own call. Mark Taylor said that was absolutely fine as it would only bring in more consistency and reduce controversy. The only thing the umpires should do is, carry on with play under light that is practically free of any danger to the players, instead of simply referring to a value on the light meters and taking decisions.  As simple as that.


Day One,Woolloongabba..

Posted December 1, 2011 by SJK
Categories: Trans Tasman Trophy

Everything was picture perfect till drinks in the first session. Ross Taylor won the toss and decided to bat in spite of the heavy cloud cover. Brendon McCullum is one man who certainly doesn’t understand cloud cover and he went about his job in his usual way. Martin Guptill was trying to set himself up at the other end while Baz was blazing away at the other. Full balls were driven, shot balls were cut and the slightly wide ones were slashed hard and went over the slip cordon.

Peter Siddle wasn’t overwhelmed by the conditions. He was on the corridor straight away and got both swing and seam. McCullum didn’t allow James Pattinson to settle to a rhythm with the new ball but the latter came back and bowled quite beautifully in his second spell. One hour into the test, I thought this opening partnership was looking good and the prospect of Williamson, Taylor and Ryder was mouthwatering. And it would have been an anomaly if New Zealand had converted that good start.

It was similar to a Sehwag-Gambhir partnership. McCullum was hurting the Aussie attack. Guptill looked as determined as ever but was trapped by a full delivery from Siddle. The most important lesson to any bowler around the world was that these Aussie bowlers looked to pick wickets by bowling fuller length balls. It would have been so attractive to hit the deck short of a length and look dangerous on this Gabba pitch but they generally, hit length.

I hadn’t quite recovered from the shock of seeing Nathan Lyon in the eleven and ended up being pleasantly surprised by the way he bowled. Captain Clarke certainly has a major say in the way Lyon is handled and he did a wonderful job this morning. Firstly, bringing Lyon on to bowl before lunch and then giving him the catching men at both forward and backward short leg. Lyon, for his part, bowled beautifully. The trajectory was brilliant, there were serious revolutions imparted, the line and length were good and overall, it was good to watch. Kane Williamson handled spin so well when he played the tests in India. He is still an excellent player of spin. But I thought he wasn’t prepared for the kind of pressure Clarke and Lyon exerted so early on in his innings. He got out to a classical off spinner’s trap.

Mitchell Starc seems to have a hell of a lot of potential. He can be three dozen times the force Mitchell Johnson is.  He could have got more wickets if he had stuck to a particular corridor today. He bowled a tight line to McCullum from over the stumps and then came around the wickets, stifled him for width and McCullum immediately gave his wicket away, hitting it straight to point. Maiden test catch for David Warner and maiden test wicket for Mitchell Starc. And out of all dismissals, Ross Taylors’ was the poorest.  He probably wanted to get on fluently straight away. But that’s not the way to build a test innings. Pattinson was troubling him in his second spell with balls swinging and zipping past the outside edge. On a full ball, wide outside off stump, Taylor went for a drive without getting to the pitch off the ball and chopped it on to the stumps. He wasn’t settled enough to play that shot and that was poor, poor temperament from the skipper.

It was 4 down for 94 at lunch and the usual top order failure had happened again. From the bowling perspective, Siddle was the pick of the bowlers, identifying the line from where he got the right amount of movement outwards, while Pattinson was second best. Things got worse in the first over after lunch as Jesse Ryder cut one ball straight to point. 5 down for 95 and in came Mr.Cricket, Dan Vettori.

It was another typical Vettori innings. He left balls which had to be left. He picked the length early on some, shuffled and scored through square leg. Those were definitely pre-meditated. He had a smart sweep shot for the spinner, and an effective late cut. He drove through the covers on all possible opportunities and he kept the scorers busy. Most importantly, he had a very decent defense!

Dean Brownlie never always offered the straight bat. He played a steady second fiddle to Vettori. He doesn’t have a great defense but playeda bit of a gritty knock. Nathan Lyon went defensive in his spell after lunch, to both Vettori and Brownlie. Starc was given a longish spell and showed what he’s capable of.  And yes, I forgot to mention Captain Clarke dropped a sitter at first slip, off Brownlie; Peter Siddle was the unfortunate bowler.

As tea approached, the light went bad and Siddle and Pattinson should have been bowling when Micheal Hussey was given the ball. I remember there were at least four men on the fence. That was probably the one major error of Clarke that I can remember today.

I don’t know when Hilfenhaus will return but whenever he will, he’ll have a lot of juniors fighting for spots. This battery of Siddle Harris,Cummins, Pattinson, Cutting and Starc looks very encouraging for this rebuilding team. And Nathan Lyon looks like he’ll be around for quite some time.

For the Kiwi batsmen, it was another familiar story. Poor shot selection and poor temperament. John Wright should be a very dejected man. But they don’t need to go too far for somebody to look up to. Someone has averaged more than 40 in the last three years and has been a regular rescuer to the batting unit several times. And generally, bats at No.8.

The Aussie summer is here!

Posted November 30, 2011 by SJK
Categories: Trans Tasman Trophy

If this was anywhere else but Brisbane, New Zealand would have been favourites. I still think they’re the better team, on current playing form.

David Warner has a nice natural batting technique. I don’t mind him playing test cricket before he reached a thousand first class runs. But Phil Hughes is the big surprise. He doesn’t seem to have the necessary tool kit for a test opener at all. I was listening to Sir Geoffrey on ESPNCricinfo and he didn’t waste any time in calling Hughes’ technique as ‘poor’. Hughes has survived with a 126 in the second innings at Colombo and an 88 at Jo’burg.

You have to feel for people like Simon Katich and Chris Rogers.

Now look at the visiting dressing room. Two experienced batsmen, both very good with the short ball, and both have enough ability to make excellent starts on a pitch like the Gabba. A couple of years back, New Zealand had Taylor, McCullum and Vettori scoring the bulk of the runs. McIntosh is gone. There is no place for Flynn or How or the Marshalls. So consider Ryder, Taylor and Williamson behind Guptill and McCullum. This could be the time when the Kiwis can actually start performing big in the test arena.

I wish Grant Elliot made that No. 6 spot ahead of Brownlie.

In this test, I guess it will come down to how well both middle orders handle the short stuff. There is no doubt Southee and Martin will have a go at Ponting and Clarke. Khawaja and Hussey will look to be more disciplined. They’ll have to counter the steady seam bowling of Doug Bracewell. Ross Taylor has said yesterday that Bracewell has the ability to become a ‘great world class all rounder’.  And that was surprising. He was a little better than ‘steady’ at Bulawayo but these are big words!! Will have to see how he goes tomorrow!

It seems Cutting has been bowling extremely well at the pre match training. He’s the home boy as well, so I’ll surely have him play. And let me tell you Nathan Lyon has never visited the Gabba before this week! So it’s a no brainer now. I’ll play four fast bowlers. Moreover, this Kiwi line up, apart from Brownlie and Young, is quite strong against spin. And there’s rain forecast for days 1, 4 and 5. Why would you play Nathan Lyon??

The key for the Aussie attack will be patience. Guptill, Ryder and Williamson are all tough nuts to crack. Mike Hussey has revealed that these young quicks are totally new to this environment and that the players are just getting to know each other! And that’s where Australia stand at the start of this summer. Not too long ago, McGrath would say ‘whitewash’ and look what kind of statements come on the eve of this year’s opening test.

Very disappointing to see Cummins miss out on the Gabba test. He could have absolutely ripped apart the Kiwis here.

My weight is behind the Kiwis pulling off a massive performance and taking the Gabba away from Australia.

Lawry and Taylor are hours away! Can’t wait!

Drubbing for the Windies

Posted November 16, 2011 by SJK
Categories: West Indies in India

It’s amazing how the mood of one innings can be so different from another. And how a pitch can behave so differently to two different teams within the space of 2 days. No, clearly, one team is more capable than the other. Summing up the dismissals of the West Indian batsmen in their first innings is of, virtually, no meaning. That’s because the same men showed way more application two hours later. I was delighted to watch the lengths that Umesh Yadav hit today. It gave him results straight away! Bravo and Samuels weren’t quite expecting the lengths that they got. Ashwin’s slider worked well against Chanderpaul and he’s proving a handful to all the left handers there. Amongst the heap of wickets this morning, it was very easy for people to forget Ojha’s contribution. The lad is doing his job in a very efficient manner.

 Carlton Baugh should quickly realize that he can’t get away playing across the  wicket to these spinners. He kept on doing that and that was ridiculous. For all the skill he’s got, he should play straight. I do not rate Marlon Samuels as a test batsman at all. And I can’t comprehend the absence of Lendl Simmons here, given his form this year and the fact that he’s never attempted to murder anyone from THE WICB. Of course, I can start about the other selection howlers but I’ll let that come sometime later.

 India’s plan is very very clear. Ishant and Ashwin for left handers; Ojha and  Umesh for right handers. I now wonder if, while picking a test squad, the wise men choose a careful combination to bowl well against both right and left handers.  Ishant is putting in a lot of effort but he’s still inconsistent. He’s not bowling badly at all and more importantly, doesn’t seem troubled by that ankle.

 Barath and Edwards played late and showed better application in the second essay. Edwards continues to play that loose cut short of balls wide outside off stump. He looks strong on the on side though. Bravo hit one six off Ashwin and Dhoni immediately pushed the man to long on. What confidence will that give the bowler? We all know how many runs India have and the skipper set pathetic fields today.

 The only hope for the visitors in Mumbai would be a better pitch.

Eden test, day 2

Posted November 15, 2011 by SJK
Categories: West Indies in India

New ball for spin?

 Ojha and Ashwin looked threatening with the new ball. I hope spinners around the world take note. The new ball bounces more and offers a more pronounced seam for your grip. I know spinners’ opening the bowling is not new but more captains can use this phenomenon better in various situations, especially in tests! As an attacking option!  (I still hate Dhoni)


When the Windies were bowling early on day 2, it looked an absolute farce. Someone like Bishoo should never bowl around the wickets. If he’s going to bowl two short balls an over and still leak runs, what’s the point? And to watch West Indies, out of all teams, going through the motions on a pitch like this, was sad. An old gentleman sitting behind me was livelier than Roach and Edwards on this pitch. India, as a home team, knows how to exploit these conditions, but in my opinion, this is far from a ‘test match pitch’. Because what do visiting teams do? They’re left clueless and that’s not a contest you want to watch. Sammy, inside their playing XI, isn’t helping the cause at all.

Looking forward

Bravo has to attack. Chanderpaul has to play another Delhi like innings. That will remove some of the bat-pad men and West Indies have to do that as soon as possible on day 3. Things will get easier for them as the ball grows old. Both Ashwin and Ojha depend a lot on their grip on the ball and that will get softer as the ball grows older. I was very impressed with the shape Umesh Yadav was getting today. But I fail to understand the length he continues to bowl. I’ll look forward to big knocks from Bravo and Baugh.


A friend recommended BarBQ on Park Street and it’s certainly a lovely place to hang around, considering the incredible amount of filth in the other parts of the city. The weather and the traffic policemen bring a touch of Bangalore here. Here’s hoping for good sunshine and a more even contest between bat and ball on day 3. I’ll be happy with WI being 6 down by stumps. That will make it 14 wickets for India on the last 2 days.



Why Spain is not FC Barcelona Yet

Posted November 14, 2011 by vishwanathrenegade
Categories: Uncategorized

The Spanish are the World champions and European champions. But are they the best team in the world including clubs?? The answer is NO. They would come second to FC Barcelona. The question won’t be relevant always. But it is, now, because the two teams have the same engine rooms (read Xavi and Iniesta) and play with the same philosophy. More importantly I would say no other club can beat the Spanish team and that includes Real Madrid, Manchester United and other English clubs. The same cannot be said of any other national team that I have seen and hence the question is relevant.

I recently watched the friendly England V Spain, England beating Spain 1-0 scoring of the only chance they had in the entire game. If not for the jersey colours you couldn’t tell the game from any other FC Barcelona league game. But Spain lost it while Barcelona would never have. That brings me to my question of focus –
Why Spain isn’t as good as FC Barcelona yet? An immediate answer would be- Because they don’t have Lionel Messi! Well if that is the case they will never become FC Barcelona as Messi is from Argentina. In that case why isn’t Argentina even half as good as FCB yet? Let us try answering the former question alone because answers to the latter mostly involve events off the field. If the answer is the absence of Messi alone it begs the question whether the system of play in Barcelona is really the best in the world? Can it work without the best player in the world?

The Spanish are the World champions and European champions but they simply don’t have the goals in them that FC Barcelona has. They won the World Cup with a string of 1-0 wins while the possession stat in each match was comparable to what Barcelona would have. They didn’t score many goals. They just lacked that cutting edge. True, Spain will murder lesser equipped teams. True, they created some good chances against England, which had they been taken, would have made it 2-0 or 3-0. But that would be taking false solace as teams are fast finding the way to beat Spain; whereas how to beat Barcelona has been an unanswered question for three seasons running. Add to it the fact that England did absolutely nothing on the counter attack. Teams like the Netherlands and Germany are well equipped to do much better on the counter and had Arjen Robben buried those one on one’s in the WC final we would be discussing something else now. England just sat back (parked the bus as they say), maintained their defensive shape superbly and thwarted Spain all day long. The English will rave about the win while I don’t think there’s much they can take home on the attacking front from that win. England did what Switzerland did better in the World Cup, what the Netherlands could so easily have done.

In spite of the greatest creativity on the field, Spain lack goals. The reason for that is not because they don’t have Messi. It is because they lack width as a team. They simply don’t field players who like to run on the flanks, run at the defenders to create gap between defensive lines for their forwards and attacking midfielders to exploit. They were plagued by the lack of width in the WC and not much seems to have changed, if the Engalnd friendly is anything to go by. No, I am not suggesting in the very least that they should change their formation, go 4-4-2 or anything like that. It is just that this system of Spain or Barcelona, which is outstanding, needs players who can run on the flanks to create gaps in the middle. Spain can retain the system but will need to field players who can go wide. Barcelona has so many such players who run the flanks all day, many of them even being wing backs. Daniel Alves is the first name you would mention and Arbeloa or Sergio Ramos can never match him at right back. Adriano, Maxwell and Abidal are other wing backs who derive a lot of joy attacking the opposition wing back. Jordi Alba was efficient at left back against England but will need to offer better in the attacking third. Barcelona also has players like Ibrahim Affelay and Alexis Sanchez (when fit) who can provide width every day of the week. The other player from Barcelona who can do that, who also performed spectacularly for Spain in his short stint at the WC, Pedro Rodriguez was missing from the Spanish line up surprisingly. Injured?

A look at the Spanish line up and you cannot see many players who can provide width. Vicente del Bosque has always played all the four of Busquets, Xavi, Xabi Alonso, all of them being central players. Del Bosque’s formation I would imagine is a 4-3-3 (Iniesta being a part of the front 3) and the 3 in front rotating themselves which is very much like Barcelona. The two forwards they started with were David Silva and David Villa. David Villa was a fantastic marksman for Valencia, then started playing the role of the withdrawn striker and has a penchant to cut in from the left. He often starts wide left during the play for Spain and is always going to cut in. One can seldom see him take on the defender on the outside and play a cross in, which makes it quite easy for defenders. David Silva who played on the left flank for Valencia has abandoned the position to revel in a more central role for his country as well as the new club. His exploits as a play maker at Manchester City need no mention here but he hasn’t played wide for more than three years now. The players that came on- Cesc Fabregas, another playmaker who plays centrally. Santi Cazorla is another class act, who can run the game at any top club, but another central midfielder. Juan Mata- when I saw him at Valencia three seasons back, he played on the left wing, but now runs the game at Chelsea playing more centrally. So where does the width come from? I recently came across this article where I read the term ‘Media Punta’ and how Spain is extremely gifted with so many players who run between the lines. All the players mentioned above, fall in that category. Excellent! So many players run between the lines but who pulls the lines apart? Who drags defenders wide? Anyone who watched the game can vouch that Engalnd were comfortable sitting back protecting their goal centrally and knew nothing would come in from wide. Spain derived some width out of Torres and Villa in the WC and now Silva replaces Torres. Not much difference is it?

One player I wished, would come on for Spain when they were 1-0 down against England was Jesus Navas, the gifted winger from Sevilla. Now, he is a player who can play wide and can challenge any wing back, put them to shame on his day. He showed flashes of brilliance in the WC before Pedro came on to the scene. Pedro himself is another such player for Spain. From the fantastic talent pool of the La Liga such players are bound to be found as well. If Spain is to match the higher standards of Barcelona they will have to fit in such players into the system for better execution of Plan A and more importantly to have a plan B. An immediate retro fit would be start with Pedro in place of Silva or Sergio Busquets, the latter being a more attacking option. Irrespective of what line up they start with Del Bosque has to bring these players on as impact substitutions instead of may be a Fabregas, especially when the going is tough with the opposition defending well. Spain will also need better output from their wingbacks in the attacking third. The system with which Spain plays is a fantastic one which denies the opposition of quite simply the ball itself, places deep faith in possession. But when it is only possession without clear cut chances, troubling the opposition keeper it suffocates the team and opens them up for a counter. If Spain is to conjure up goals from high percentage of possession with scores of 2-0 or better, they need to find the width to stretch defences. That is the benchmark set by FC Barcelona and till they reach that, they are not the best team in the world yet. Or Spain isn’t FC Barcelona yet.