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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Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game