News The tone in the Sky Sports commentary box these days is like a dressing-room banter free-for-all

The first session of the First Test has often proved a pivotal passage of play in Ashes series Down Under. Even the first ball; Steve Harmison’s wide to second slip in 2006, or Michael Slater smashing Phil DeFreitas through cover point for four in 1994. It tends to “set the tone”, as the pundits like to say – and the tone in the Sky Sports commentary box these days is like a dressing-room banter free-for-all.

Hick's departure confirms England's incompetence : Cricket

As Graham Hick yesterday became the seventh England cricketer to be invalided home from Australia, England's tour management also revealed themselves to be a bodily disaster in as much as they do not appear to know their backside from their elbow.

Caught in back of beyond

One word kept cropping up in conversations that buzzed around the MCG at high noon yesterday. One word, that is, apart from abysmal, appalling and so on. The word was "back". Back to square one. Back in the old routine. Back to the dark ages. Back where they were when Gooch resigned.

BOOKS / The Independent on Sunday bestseller list

IN THE LISTS Bill Watterson, whose collection of strip cartoons Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat heads this week's humour bestsellers, looks like the natural heir to Charles M Schulz. The venerable Peanuts became a cult, was taken so seriously it stopped being funny and has ended up almost a religion.

What the papers said about . . . Ian Botham

'Bonding? I prefer beer to Gooch's chest bumps.' Mail

BOOK REVIEW / It was a bit of a jape, but don't tell the wife: 'My Autobiography' - Ian Botham; Collins Willow, 15.99 pounds

IAN BOTHAM - or Iron Bottom, as they say in India - was a cricketer of such outsized gifts that he could afford to burn them at both ends. He was also, less happily, what the commentators like to call, er, a big man in every sense, a larger-than-life character, bestrides the stage like a colossus, Mister 100 per cent, a giant among pygmies, etc. These cartoon cliches are a joke, naturally, but in a way the whole point of Botham's much- touted, pseudo-controversial autobiography is that it is the story of a man who refused to conform to the cartoon ideal of sporting excellence demanded by the modern media.

Botham obliged to play it by the book

WELL, DID he spend a cocaine-enhanced night with Miss Barbados? Did he smoke funny cigarettes? What about that punch-up with Rodney Hogg? And did he really bash a passenger on a Perth plane?

Cricket: Slips keep being caught short

ONE OF the ways in which cricket has changed in recent years is the position that wicketkeepers now take up when standing back.

Cricket: Healthy Crowe takes to flight

Somerset . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .364-8 dec

Cricket: Kiwis claim noble scalp

New Zealand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .229-5

Bowled over by a well stocked cellar: The former England cricketer Ian Botham tells Anthony Rose how John Arlott introduced him to the joys of wine

Not long ago, meat and drink to Ian Botham meant devouring the opposition with bat and ball. Today, his meat is red and his drink red, white or rose. That 'Beefy' has been bitten by the wine bug is apparent not just from the meticulously crafted stone bins, lined with wood and metal, in the cool stone cellar of his North Yorkshire home, but also from the breadth of his wine collection. Few can boast cellars with mature La Tache and Romanee-Conti from Burgundy or mature vintages of Australia's Wolf Blass Black Label and Grange Hermitage. The great all-rounder can.

Obituary: Reg Hayter

Reginald James Hayter, journalist, sports agency proprietor; born London 4 December 1913; married 1932 Lucy Gray (two sons, three daughters); died Northwood, Middlesex 13 March 1994.

Cricket: Reluctant tourist's nightmare journey: Glenn Moore in East London reports on how England A's opening batsman Mark Lathwell is learning to cope with failure after a dismal run

THERE was a moment towards the end of Sunday's play at Bloemfontein that summed up Mark Lathwell's fortunes on England A's South African tour. The chunky Somerset opener, never the most agile of fielders, was straining after an on-drive. As it approached the boundary he dived desperately, reached the ball - and slid over the rope with it.

A warped sense of humour took me right back in time

YESTERDAY I called Canada a split-personality nation and you were probably thinking, 'Yeah, yeah, the French and English thing, we all know about that', but no, I didn't mean that. I wasn't thinking about that at all.

We're happy to be the fat of the land

JANICE BHEND is angry. 'How dare Virgina Bottomley say there are too many overweight people? It's a load of rubbish and far too simplistic.'

How to make your life into a best-selling autobiography

SOONER or later we all wonder if it is time to write our autobiography and, if so, whether to mention our short-lived fling with the Prince of Wales or Baroness Thatcher or Lord Archer or, if we never had such a fling, to suggest strongly that we did. Then we say: No, it's ridiculous to write our life story just yet. Then Sir David Frost writes his and we say: Blimey, if he's done his . . .
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