Andy Bull

Author's details

Name: Andy Bull
Date registered: October 8, 2014

Latest posts

  1. Ben Stokes happy for England to take precedence despite missing IPL finale — May 22, 2017
  2. Misbah and Younis did more than serve Pakistan – they served cricket — May 16, 2017
  3. Cricket’s slow-burn satisfaction nods to the notion faster isn’t always better | The Spin — April 18, 2017
  4. Ernie Els in wistful mood for what could be his playing farewell to the Masters — April 9, 2017
  5. But for one England try the Six Nations would have been a five-way tie | Andy Bull — March 20, 2017

Author's posts listings

May 22

Ben Stokes happy for England to take precedence despite missing IPL finale

The England all-rounder has no issue with being recalled and missing the tournament’s final and remains focused on the ODI series against South Africa

There are 5,000 miles between England and India and for Ben Stokes, just back from the IPL, Leeds seems a world away from Pune. He is here to prepare for England’s ODI against South Africa on Wednesday and, though Yorkshire is one of the few places on earth aside from India where cricket could fairly be described, to borrow Stokes’ phrase, as “a religion”, they are a little more solemn in their observance of it round Headingley way. “It’s completely different to England,” he says. “They go mad for it. They’ll queue up for five hours just to see Dhoni walk out on to the pitch.” It’s a relief, he says, to be able to “walk across the road and get a coffee” without having everyone pester you for “selfie, selfie, selfie”.

Related: Ben Stokes leads England charge of the IPL brigade against South Africa

Related: South Africa look for special Kagiso Rabada to topple England once more

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May 16

Misbah and Younis did more than serve Pakistan – they served cricket

One of the great Test partnerships has ended with the retirement of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan, who carried Pakistan through their darkest years

Some retirements leave you feeling older all of a sudden, as if time has just moved on in a leap. There were two such on Sunday night. Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan played their final games, a Test against West Indies at Windsor Park in Dominica.

Related: David Warner’s Ashes power play strikes blow for players left behind | Vic Marks

Related: Sign up to the Spin

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Apr 18

Cricket’s slow-burn satisfaction nods to the notion faster isn’t always better | The Spin

Nothing in sport matches sitting in a sparse crowd like a content pigeon savouring the rhythm of the day. It’s like a secret only a few know about

Sometime around a quarter to 12, Mark Stoneman lunged out towards Steve Parry, missed the ball, and was stumped by Alex Davies. Surrey were 66 for two then, and still 85 runs behind. “C’mon lads,” said one of the fielders, his voice ringing out loud around the largely empty ground, “we’re in the game here.” It was the last time in the match that this was true. Kumar Sangakkara was next man in, and in the mood. He batted as if saving the game was as simple a matter as his making the decision to do exactly that. So his score advanced inexorably through the day, passing like the second hand of a clock. And the century he eventually scored seemed as inevitable as the arrival of 10 to five, when the match was called off as a draw, the two captains both happy that there was nothing left for either side to gain.

Related: County cricket talking points: old pros prevail for Kent, Surrey and Lancashire

Sangakkara was like a great actor performing in front of a sparse audience

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Apr 09

Ernie Els in wistful mood for what could be his playing farewell to the Masters

With his exemption for the tournament having run out, the South African’s final round on Sunday could prove to be last in the season’s first major

Early Sunday morning, seven hours before the leaders reached the back nine and the tournament really started, Ernie Els started what will likely be his last round at the Masters. For the last five years Els has qualified automatically because he won the Open in 2012. The exemption is about to run out and, given that Els is 47, is currently ranked No410 in the world and has missed the cut in nine of his last 10 tournaments, he may struggle to find a way back. Time was when Els would have had a late afternoon tee-time himself on Sunday. Between 2000 and 2004, he finished second, sixth, fifth, sixth, and second again, a perennial contender who never quite got it done. Now, he says he’s been “trying to look around” as he plays, “just in case this is the last one”.

Related: The Masters 2017: fourth round – live!

Related: Phil Mickelson’s rash gamble a fitting end to his uneasy Masters week | Andy Bull

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Mar 20

But for one England try the Six Nations would have been a five-way tie | Andy Bull

It was a tournament to savour, with the standard of play and level of ferocity increasing, but unfortunately the Italians are being left behind

Come Monday morning the players will be back at work with their clubs, getting ready for the next round of league fixtures.

Their schedules leave them precious little time to heal their wounds, even less to rest and reflect on what has gone on these past few weeks. Rugby has never been an easy living but in this Six Nations some of the Tests, especially the three between England, Ireland and Wales, were so ferocious that watching them felt a guilty pleasure.

Related: New Zealand media on England loss: ‘Stuffed plastic bags in need of a trolley’

Related: Emerald flytrap shuts on England once again in Six Nations | Robert Kitson

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Mar 17

Eddie Jones: right man at right time rescued England and saved his career

Coach was on the periphery of rugby until Japan’s shock victory in the 2015 World Cup propelled him into the England job

Eddie Jones passed the audition for the England job at 6.40pm on Saturday 19 September 2015, eight weeks before it became available, nine weeks before he was appointed. That was the day Japan beat South Africa at the Brighton Community Stadium, in the group stages of the 2015 World Cup.

At that particular moment there were two minutes to play and Japan were three points down. They won a penalty, and had to pick whether to kick at goal, for three points and a draw, or try and score five or more to win the match. Jones knew just what to do. “When we had that chance to level the game,” he said, “I tried to get the message down to take the kick at goal.” Only, he was too slow. By the time his instructions reached the pitch, the ball was already in touch.

Related: Six Nations: seven things to look out for this weekend

If he thinks you are not working hard enough then you’d better be ready to have your arse kicked … but he has a heart

Related: Ireland v England clash could settle Lions front-row picks, says Neal Hatley

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Mar 14

Holding to Boycott: the greatest over ever, or just the most memorable?

Michael Holding says he bowled plenty of faster and better overs in his career, but the six balls that assailed and finally dismissed Geoffrey Boycott in Barbados 36 years ago today do take some beating Continue reading…

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Mar 13

England happy to wait until they can step out from All Blacks’ shadow | Andy Bull

New Zealand’s superior statistics in their 18-game winning run do not deter England’s Eddie Jones from insisting his team aspire to end up as world No1

Back in the early 1980s, there were few more futile things a man could do than try to pursue a career in competitive squash. Because to be the best, you had to beat Jahangir Khan. And between April 1981 and November 1986 Khan won so many consecutive matches that even statisticians lost track of the exact count. Most figure it was around 555, making it the longest winning streak in the history of sport. “It wasn’t my plan to create such a record,” Khan once said. “All I did was put in the effort to win every match I played and it went on for weeks, months and years.” Khan’s rival Ross Norman once admitted that it got so deflating that everyone else just “accepted the inevitable”. The best strategy, Norman reckoned, was to wait. “One day Jahangir will be slightly off his game,” he told himself, “and I will get him.”

Related: ‘Congratulations England’: reading between the lines of New Zealand’s reaction

Related: England and Jonathan Joseph thump Scotland to seal Six Nations title

Related: Ireland fail to set up showdown while Wales must convince against France | Paul Rees

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Mar 10

Golden glare from Brailsford’s success allowed autocracy to develop in shadows | Andy Bull

British Cycling’s performance director fulfilled his brief by providing medals galore and no one really cared how he went about it

Back when there was an appetite for such things Sir Dave Brailsford offered “20 lessons in leadership” for the website of a financial services consultancy called Harrington Starr. “The one biggest bit of advice” Brailsford had to give his readership was “to make people feel valued”. This, they learned, was “absolutely critical”, “a subject area of real importance and significance” because “performance hinges on people feeling genuinely valued in an organisation”. And it is easy to do, as Brailsford explained. “When you are under pressure a smile from a colleague asking ‘are you OK and what can I do to help’ can mean as much as any significant investment.” So “one of the best marginal gains that you can give your team is a simple smile”. And the best bit is “it doesn’t cost a penny!”.

Which is fortunate because hiring Brailsford to explain all this to you costs quite a few. He has an “AA” rating on JLA, the “UK’s biggest specialist agency for keynote, motivational and after dinner speakers”, which means he has a minimum fee of £25,000. In between running British Cycling and Team Sky Brailsford has been busy peddling the lessons acquired from his life in pedaling, working the lecture circuit, pushing books about what we can all learn from the way he works. No word yet on exactly when we can expect his autobiography What It Takes: Being the Best You Can Be in Life, Sport and Work, which was supposed to be published last autumn. Brailsford promised it would reveal “principles and methods to optimise personal excellence in all walks of life”.

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Mar 07

The Spin | The first step on a long, difficult but welcome road back to cricket in Pakistan

The news that Pakistan is to host international cricket again in September will be greeted with joy in that country and with caution elsewhere, but can only be good news for the game

Last Sunday there were a dozen games of cricket going on in one place or another, domestic fixtures in towns and cities across Bangladesh, South Africa and Zimbabwe, a one-day international in North Sound, Antigua, another, between two women’s teams, in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand, and the second Test between India and Australia in Bengaluru. Then there was the final of the Pakistan Super League, between Quetta Gladiators and Peshawar Zalmi, another ring-a-ding franchise match in one of the world’s many Twenty20 leagues, a game which might have passed unremarked but that it was being held at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. Some matches are about more than who wins, who loses, and who scores how many. The location made the game between Quetta and Peshawar one of them.

Related: Pakistan to host international cricket again with T20 series versus World XI

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Feb 18

Warren Gatland warning puts Lions on behaviour alert for New Zealand

The head coach wants his Lions to ‘mend some stuff’ from the 2005 tour in which Clive Woodward’s squad were mocked, goaded and whitewashed

The last time Warren Gatland had a dig at New Zealand, one of their national newspapers put a cartoon of him dressed as a clown on the front page of their sport section. That was in November, when Gatland said he was “embarrassed” that the New Zealand Herald had run a picture of the Australia coach, Michael Cheika, wearing a red nose and a yellow ruff around his neck.

So, of course the paper then gave Gatland the very same treatment. “It was a bit of a lesson for me,” Gatland says. “I was really disappointed with that. I was really upset them turning me into a clown.” He pauses, and offers just a hint of a grin. “They could have at least made me a happy clown.”

Related: Warren Gatland mocked as clown by New Zealand media after anti-fan remarks

Related: Richard Williams: Woodward’s pride came before Lions’ fall

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Feb 13

Joe Root was not always earmarked for England captaincy but rarely shirks a test | The Spin

Ever since he was a young boy in the Yorkshire nets, Joe Root has demonstrated that – experienced or not – he has the heart for the fight

When he was 12, Joe Root won a prize coveted by every cricket-nut in Yorkshire: a trip to Headingley for a session in the indoor nets. Root and his father arrived early, in time to watch Yorkshire’s batting coach Kevin Sharp pepper the England batsman Anthony McGrath with short balls.

Related: Alastair Cook no longer an officer but still an asset to England’s new commander | Vic Marks

Related: Jason Gillespie says the timing is perfect for Joe Root to become England captain

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Feb 08

Alastair Cook plays a straight bat to the end but Kevin Pietersen regrets linger | Andy Bull

In his last press conference England’s outgoing captain says he gave it his best shot but admits fallout from Kevin Pietersen sacking took a heavy toll

This time there were no tears or tantrums, spats, scandals, angry words or apologies. Alastair Cook, already unique among England captains in that he has led in more Tests, and scored more runs, than any of the 78 other men who have done the job, achieved another rare feat. He orchestrated a graceful resignation, on his own terms, in his own time, and without controversy.

At Lord’s on Tuesday Cook gave his final press conference in the post, in a small, stuffy room high up in the Tavern Stand, the groundstaff working away in the background to get everything ready for the new season. Quitting, Cook said, was a tough decision, “because it is such an amazing job to do”, and at the same time an easy one, because he was sure he was ready. “I’ve been to the well a couple of times as England captain and I couldn’t go again.”

Related: Alastair Cook: ECB hung me out to dry in Kevin Pietersen furore

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Feb 06

Six Nations is in rude health thanks to airing of national antagonisms | Andy Bull

The tournament has the world’s highest average attendance and full stadiums reflect a chance to indulge in idle chauvinism as much as the quality of rugby

The onliest Frank Keating, late of these pages, used to have wicked fun writing about England. When the Wasps wing Simon Smith scored against Scotland in March 1985 it was England’s first try – imagine this – in a championship match at Twickenham for the best part of three seasons.

Keating described this astonishing event as being accompanied by “a noticeable ruffle from under the tartan travelling-rugs, as colonels and crusty captains found themselves inspired to seek out the parchmenty-white flesh under the sheepskin skirt and, for the first time in years, give a playful tweak to the thigh of the haughty but faithful old battleaxe next to them”. You might struggle to sneak a line like that into the papers today, even if you had the wit to think of it. Unless you did it in direct quotation of course (thanks, Frank). His sympathies always did seem to lie with the Welsh.

Related: Six Nations 2017: talking points from the opening weekend

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Feb 06

Captaincy was duty not art for Alastair Cook, English cricket’s finest servant | The Spin

To Cook, captaincy was a corollary of his monumental batting. Having carried the burden through 59 tumultuous Tests, he steps down exhausted but unbroken

When Alastair Cook started at Bedford School, his father bought him a copy of Mike Brearley’s book The Art of Captaincy. A decade later, Cook admitted that he’d never actually got round to reading it. In the autobiography Cook published when he was 24 – he was as precocious in this regard as every other – he explained that as a kid all he cared about was batting, “and I did not want anything getting in the way of it”. If some men are born to the captaincy, and others achieve it, Cook assumed it. It was a corollary of his batting. In the end he led England in 59 Tests, more than any other man in history, but he never seems to have seen captaincy as an art, more a duty. “It interests me,” he wrote, “but it doesn’t drive me.”

The ECB eventually arranged for Cook to meet Brearley in 2007. They chatted for three hours, and when they were done Cook decided: “You can take as much advice as possible and talk to as many people as you can but at the end of the day you have to do things your way.” And his way was to take this complicated job and make it as simple as possible, just as he had stripped the act of batting down to three shots: a pull, a cut, and a nudge. Another Essex skipper, Doug Insole, said that a captain should be “a public relations officer, agricultural consultant, psychiatrist, accountant, nursemaid and diplomat”. Cook decided the most important thing to be was a batsman.

Related: Alastair Cook steps down as England Test captain

Related: Infuriating England can rise as quickly as Mike Gatting’s Invincibles fell | Vic Marks

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Feb 03

Old foes form uneasy alliance in attempt to make France less predictable again | Andy Bull

Guy Novès and Bernard Laporte have never got on but they are the two figures responsible for fixing the problems that have left France without a Six Nations title to their name since 2010

Despite everything the clichés lead us to believe, we usually do know which French team are going to turn up, and while they may well be able to beat anyone on the day they seldom do. For the past five years France have been as mercurial as the February weather. They last won the Six Nations in 2010, came second the year after, and since then have finished fourth, sixth, fourth, fourth and fifth. Among the world’s top 10 teams, only Scotland and Argentina have a worse record in the past five years than the French, who have played 55, won 24, and lost 29. Lately they have taken to consoling themselves with how little by which they have been losing. Narrow defeats against New Zealand and Australia in the autumn counted as highlights in a year in which they won just four matches.

Odd thing is, according to a recent survey rugby has never been so popular in France. It found that a third of the French population say they have an interest in the sport. That figure may not stand close scrutiny, but the broad trend is backed up by the increase in attendances in elite club rugby, up 40% in the past decade. Club budgets have grown, too. In 2013, the Top 14’s TV deal was worth £31.7m to the competing teams. The new deal, signed last year, brings in more than three times that amount. Last 24 June was a high water mark. Almost 100,000 turned out to watch the Top 14 final at the Camp Nou in Barcelona, a world record for a club match. But just five days earlier the national team, missing several key players, lost 30-19 against Argentina in Tucumán.

Related: Six Nations is the one European tradition that still unites everyone | Robert Kitson

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