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.

England youngsters backed by Botham

Hussain's old guard must stand aside for tougher generation

Third Ashes Test: English cricket is languishing in another age and drastic action must be taken to clear away legacy of 15 years of failure

Blair salutes unsung heroes

Light Blues on the back foot

Sports Letter: Time to give Butcher a rest

Sir: I see that Mark Butcher has failed yet again to get any runs for England in the [Second]Test match against South Africa. For some reason which escapes me, Butcher seems to have become a fixture in the England side despite the fact that he has failed to achieve any consistency in run-making in Test matches. When was the last time he made a sequence of big scores that could justify his retention in the side?

SPORT BIRTHDAYS

Today: Billie-Jean King (1943) and Boris Becker (1967).

Botham reaches the end of the road

IT WAS the end of an era. Ian Botham, dispatcher of Australians, all-round bon viveur and part-time pantomime star, arrived in Land's End yesterday on the final footsteps of his last epic charity walk. After eight treks across the length and breadth of Britain and the Alps, the cricketing legend has declared an end to perhaps his most laudable innings of all.

They've stumped the best bloody bowler in history

EVERYONE KNOWS that English cricket is drooping, but who would have thought it would come to this? Fred Trueman and Trevor Bailey, the joint mainstays of English cricket for so long, are to be replaced by commentators with what the BBC calls "a new perspective" (Tony Cozier and Donna Symonds).

Questionnaire MARK NICHOLAS - CRICKET PRESENTER

Are the English cricket team as bad as the Wisden world rankings suggest ?
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