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

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