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.

Illingworth blames 'irresponsible' play

"We blew it" was the response of England's chairman, Ray Illingworth, to his side's 10-wicket defeat yesterday in the fifth Test against South Africa, which brought with it a 1-0 defeat in the series.

Sky's team still has much to learn about coping with a dull day

Sporting history was made yesterday. For the first time in 120 years of winter tours, it was possible to spend Boxing Day at home watching live Test cricket. This is the third time Sky has televised the Christmas Test, but the other two both took place in Melbourne, so you had to go without sleep to see them.

Taylor takes pleasure in double delivery

Andrew Baker speaks to a woman who plays for England at cricket and football

FOOTBALL: Mansfield look for Daley bread

On the face of it, even Mansfield Town would admit that their registration of former Olympic champion Daley Thompson smacks of a publicity stunt to rival Ian Botham's dalliance with Scunthorpe.

how to be an End-to-Ender

A Harrier Jump Jet whizzed from Land's End to John O'Groats in 49 minutes, which is hardly fair competition. On the ground, the journey across Britain from north to south, or vice-versa, has been travelled by eccentric transport - a penny-farthing, a motorised bath-tub and scores of old bikes - while an endless procession of walkers follows in the footsteps of Dr Barbara Moore, who endlessly tramped across Britain. Today's End-to-Enders have an extra achievement in mind - raising cash. Ian Botham did it on a grand scale, raising pounds 800,000 for leukaemia research.

how to fly a chopper

Next time you're stuck, fuming, in yet more traffic mayhem, cast your mind upwards to those elite beings in helicopters, buzzing, high in the sky above us.

All square, so it's over to the Oval

The final act of this summer's cricket drama will unfold on a perfect stage. Simon O'Hagan reports

Dear Ian Botham

Why would a swashbuckler at the wicket want a job as a whipping post? Resign now before it's too late

What the papers said about . . . Dominic Cork

"Three balls that shocked the world." Today

Fate bails out all-round hero

Stephen Brenkley reports on a curious incident that helped England's cause

Women hit 250 years and a car on the A281

Robert Winder watches as the women's game celebrates its quarter- millennium with a match on Bramley Common

Free spirit aiming to haunt his old mentor

Cricket: England will be leaning heavily on Yorkshire's Darren Gough this season. He spoke to Martin Johnson

Beefed-up rugby, and plenty to beef about

Sport on TV Giles Smith
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Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment