Andy Bull

Author's posts

Nov 24

Bigger wealthy unions appear happy to keep Samoans under the thumb

Huge difference in match fees between England and Samoa is another example of how the game stacks the odds against Pacific Islands teamsThere is an old Samoan saying, “only the snake looks at its killer”. The snake, according to the proverb, is the onl…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/nov/24/samoa-england-pacific-island-teams

Nov 21

England squad’s novice look masks depth of experience playing in Australia | Andy Bull

Many of England’s squad have not played a Test in Australia but most have experience of conditions there and will be ready for the Ashes challengeBack in 1949 John Arlott tried to work out exactly why the Ashes feels so much more special than England’s…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/nov/21/england-squad-novice-look-masks-depth-of-experience-australia-cricket-spin

Nov 20

Eddie Jones’ marginal gains show value of keeping man in the middle on side | Andy Bull

England coach’s pre-match charm offensive towards referee Ben O’Keeffe looks a canny move after five tight decisions against Australia favour his sideAn hour after the match, Eddie Jones snapped. Four questions into his press conference, Jones was aske…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/nov/20/eddie-jones-england-australia-referee

Nov 13

Joe Schmidt’s Ireland make boldest statement on opening weekend | Andy Bull

Ireland’s resounding victory over South Africa gives them a claim on being Europe’s top side, while England and Wales labouredA lot of stiff, sore bodies will be hauled into team meetings this Monday, as the coaches run their weekend debriefings after …

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/nov/13/joe-schmidt-ireland-strong-claim-europe-best

Nov 07

England are off the Ashes pace and need Jimmy Anderson’s guile more than ever | The Spin

Ashes lore suggests series in Australia are won by pace but for England’s depleted tourists the nous and experience of Anderson is their best hope“Remember, lad,” Len Hutton once told Ray Lindwall, “one day, we’ll have a fast bowler – and I hope that d…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/nov/07/england-ashes-jimmy-anderson-the-spin

Nov 03

New Zealand in contingency mode as Steve Hansen wrestles with problems

All Blacks arrive at Twickenham to face the Barbarians with their World Cup buildup having been severely disrupted – a situation that is forcing their unflappable coach to blood untested playersTurns out we had it wrong all along. It’s not the cockroac…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/nov/03/steve-hansen-new-zealand-contingency-barbarians

Oct 31

Is staying sober just not cricket? | Andy Bull

Joe Root denied that England players had a ‘drinking culture’ – during the hours of play at least, his team are among the minority of sober people inside a groundTipsy, intoxicated, inebriated, temulent, fuddled, cut, fresh, merry, tight, plastered, sl…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/31/the-spin-is-staying-sober-just-not-cricket-england-australia

Oct 04

Haye questions Bellew’s motivations as rivals kickstart rematch promotion

• David Haye likens Tony Bellew to a bank robber in fight promotion
• I didn’t rob no bank. I punched you senseless, retorts opponent

No one in the fight business ever lost money overestimating the public’s appetite for trash talk. So on Wednesday David Haye got to work drumming up interest in his rematch with Tony Bellew on 17 December at the O2 Arena in south-east London.

By their own scabrous standards, the two were reasonably restrained. Haye managed to get through the press conference in London without describing Bellew’s fans as “fucking retards” or promising to “smash his fucking head in” like he did before he lost to Bellew in March. But then, as Haye says “we’ve shared the ring together, I’ve dished out my licks, I’ve received his, and when you do that with somebody, whatever respect wasn’t there prior to the fight is there now”.

Related: Tony Bellew and David Haye rematch confirmed for a Sunday night

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/04/david-haye-and-tony-bellew-trade-barbs-to-kickstart-rematch-promotion

Sep 26

Joe Root’s reluctance to bat No3 leaves England selectors in a tangle | The Spin

England are going to be casting for Ashes roles during their warm-up matches, which is a little close to opening night to be running auditions, but there is a simple solution

Sir Gubby Allen was not, in the delicate phrase of one of his biographers, a “naturally penitent man”. Allen, England captain and MCC president, was also the chair of selectors between 1955 and 1962. It was Allen who persuaded Peter May to recall Cyril Washbrook to play against Australia at Headingley in 1956. Washbrook was 41, and hadn’t played a Test in so long that he was serving as one of the selectors himself. “The press went to town,” Allen wrote, but Washbrook made 98, and England won. As Allen recalled it, the spectators raised three cheers for the chair of selectors after the match. Which must be one of the few recorded instances of a public display of gratitude for men who work one of the more thankless jobs in cricket.

Related: Tom Westley survives Ashes injury scare as England rivals forced to wait

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/26/joe-root-england-ashes-squad-no3-cricket-the-spin

Aug 27

Jason Holder plots an easier path as West Indies do it the hard way

Tourists’ admirable captain held things together with bat and ball on the third day at Headingley and has given his side a chance of victory in the second Test

Jason Holder was running late on Sunday morning, caught short, like everyone else, by the startling start to the day’s play. Jimmy Anderson dismissed Shai Hope with the first ball and Shane Dowrich with the second. Hope left with his head high and his bat raised, Dowrich went eyes down, like sad Charlie Brown. Then there was a short pause, probably while Holder was scrambling to get his pads on. By the time he made it to the middle, Anderson was waiting at the end of his run and England’s eager fielders were gathered close around, five slips, a gully, a short-leg, a short mid-on. The Test was alive again, the innings back in the balance.

Holder has sounded a little sorry for himself in these last few days. “It’s not an easy job,” he said right after the first Test. “It’s not easy,” he said again just before the second, “But I enjoy it. I don’t think I would shy away from it, I don’t think I would ever give it up.” He said that he needed to “put my hand up”. And now, after all that glorious batting by Hope and Kraigg Brathwaite, the game was already beginning to slip away. West Indies had three wickets left and were only 71 runs in front. It was not enough, nothing like. And here came Anderson, bowling irresistibly well.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/aug/27/jason-holder-west-indies-england-third-test

Aug 21

West Indies players and fans alike left out in the cold and horribly exposed | Andy Bull

Windies supporters seem to have all but given up on their losing team after the salad days of the last century

When England defeated West Indies in the summer of 2000 the English public were so keen to see them play that the groundstaff at The Oval had to lock 5,000 people out of the ground on the last day of the Test. There were just not enough seats to go round. West Indies have not won a Test in England since. And while play was winding down in the first Test last Saturday evening, the groundstaff at Edgbaston had to open the gates to let at least as many fans back out of the ground. The game was not over but it was late, people wanted to catch the bus or beat the rush and, besides, the cricket was hardly worth stopping to watch. The only thing left to see was England dot the i’s and cross the t in fait accompli.

Ten years ago a film crew went to Barbados. They were working on a documentary about West Indian cricket, famous now, Fire in Babylon. They wanted an extra to shoot some action scenes, a bowler, someone who looked the part. One of their interviewees, the Calypso singer Mighty Gabby, knew just whom they should use. The boy of a good friend of his, a 15-year-old kid called Jason Holder.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/aug/21/west-indies-cold-horribly-exposed-first-test-england-jason-holder

Jul 29

Adam Peaty: patriot, performer, and the best breaststroker in history

Initially, the British swimmer didn’t want to give up the things other teenagers take for granted. Then he caught the Olympic bug

While you’re on the way to work, Adam Peaty is already in the pool. While you’re eating lunch, he’s in the gym. When you’re getting ready to leave, he’s back in the pool again. And while you’re winding down at night, he’s already asleep.

Peaty gets up at 6am to train, completing three two-hour sessions a day, six days a week. Then he’s in bed each night by 9pm. “To be embraced and sustained by the light green water was less a pleasure,” wrote John Cheever in his famous short story, The Swimmer, “than the resumption of a natural condition.” In peak training, Peaty, 22, will swim seven miles a day, every day but Sunday. That’s 1,680 lengths a week, up and down the same lanes. Why? He says it’s because deep down he knows he’s no good at anything else.

Related: ‘He’s our hero’: Adam Peaty’s swimming club celebrates his success

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jul/29/adam-peaty-profile-patriot-performer-best-breaststroke-swimmer-in-history

Jul 02

All Blacks defeats are so rare they make it their duty to learn from them | Andy Bull

The days of New Zealand going into mourning after any defeat are over – they see it as a chance for their team to grow and to come back stronger

Twenty-three All Blacks woke with the strangest feelings on Sunday morning. It was not their aching bodies, the sprains, strains, and bruises, stiff shoulders, throbbing legs, sore chests – all that was familiar enough. They expect nothing less after a Test. But another, more novel, sensation, altogether more painful. Defeat.

Their captain, Kieran Read, is about to play his 100th game. In the past 99, he has experienced this 11 times. His mate Sam Whitelock, who has won more caps at lock than any other All Black, has lost seven. Beauden Barrett, who just won his 50th cap, four. On Sunday we asked their loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett how many Tests he had lost. “Two,” he said, quick as a shot. Crockett has played 61 games.

Related: Lions must beware vengeful All Blacks and their own ill-discipline in decider | Robert Kitson

Related: ‘I am a happy clown this week,’ says Gatland after Lions beat All Blacks

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jul/02/all-blacks-defeats-lions-tour-rugby-union

Jun 13

Jos Buttler encapsulates England’s braveheart approach to risk-taking | Andy Bull

England’s batsmen now know they are allowed to fail and are protected from the old culture that saw them pilloried for playing the reverse sweep

The ball was just fine. The speed gun clocked it at 89mph, which made it one of the quickest the left-armer Trent Boult would bowl all day. It landed short, in line with leg stump, and, delivered from over the wicket, shot on towards the top of off. Only this time, just fine wasn’t good enough. Jos Buttler was on strike and before Boult had even released the ball he had begun to move his right leg square across his stumps, switch his grip, and bring the bat down and around to lift the ball over his left shoulder and away above the head of the wicketkeeper. Buttler turned to watch it fly, with the wind, up over the sightscreen and into the gantry, where a startled cameraman had to turn and stoop to fetch it and toss it back down below.

Related: Mark Wood enjoying making the difference for England in Champions Trophy

Related: The Recap: sign up for the best of the Guardian’s sport coverage

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jun/13/the-spin-jos-buttler-england-braveheart-risk-taking

Jun 04

Paranoia, infighting and Alastair Campbell: the 2005 Lions tour from hell | Andy Bull

Whitewashed, battered and humiliated, Clive Woodward’s men left New Zealand with their reputations tarnished – and their anger burned for many years to come

In the spring of 2005, the first postcards arrived. “They’ll be ready,” the cards read, “are you?” Soon after, wristbands came, sent by special delivery. They had “Power of Four” written on them, which, it turned out, was the official motto of the 2005 British & Irish Lions tour. It was all part of Clive Woodward’s grand plan. Woodward had spent 12 months scheming and made “no apologies for believing this is the best-prepared tour in the history of Lions rugby”.

Related: It’s not arrogance but New Zealanders are expecting a 10-0 sweep of the Lions | Nick Evans

Related: Lions race for No10 under way as Sexton, Farrell and Biggar audition for top job | Robert Kitson

Related: Jonny Wilkinson warns Lions to keep things simple or risk chaos of 2005

Related: Lions 2017 squad: player-by-player guide – interactive

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jun/04/2005-lions-tour-hell-new-zealand-alastair-campbell-clive-woodward

May 25

Ben Stokes set for scan after injury scare against South Africa

• All-rounder injured left knee in victory against South Africa
• India captain Virat Kohli identifies England as Champions Trophy threat

Ben Stokes has given England an injury scare with less than a week to go until the Champions Trophy, and is due to have a scan on his left knee on Thursday night.

The all-rounder was injured during Wednesday’s ODI win over South Africa and though he returned to the field, he did not bowl again and appeared uncomfortable at the conclusion.

Related: Doug Bracewell blames killing of pet cockatoo by dogs for drink-driving

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/25/india-cricket-anil-kumble-virat-kohli