Sport

What a fine mess English cricket finds itself in. Yet for supporters of a certain age, the last two months in Australia have just been a return to normal service.

Look and learn: Matt Prior watches as Hashim Amla plays another sublime shot on his way to an unbeaten 183

Amla class and Smith clout stand out

England 385 South Africa 403-2 (SA lead by 18 runs with 8 wkts left): England's celebrated bowling attack left in tatters as South African pair turn the First Test on its head

Graeme Smith is in line to become the most-capped Test captain

Evergreen Smith ready for third England scalp

Captains come and captains go. But Graeme Smith of South Africa seems to plough forever onward and upward. By the end of the series against England which begins at The Oval on Thursday, he will be the most enduring captain in Test history.

Misbah ul-Haq could make Pakistan the best Test side in the world within two years

Rajan's Wrong 'un: With Whatmore at his side Misbah may make Pakistan purr

He could plausibly make Pakistan the best Test side in the world within two years

England captain Andrew Strauss: 'I feel in good form but
I haven't performed well enough'

Defiant Strauss: I'm not stepping down in the middle of a series

He was disappointed and he was defiant. If he was going anywhere he was not saying so. It was neither the time nor the place. There was a series still on the line and, if it cannot be won by England now, it can be drawn.

Forearmed: 'We anticipate a long time in the field,' says Jimmy Anderson, leader of the England attack, 'and generally around the world we anticipate that'

England's bowlers must strike balance

History suggests tourists need five-man attack to counter pitch and heat

2012: Electricity, communications and water are cut off as temperatures plummet. Food supplies, especially for children, are said to be dangerously low, and many people are too scared to venture out

Robert Fisk: Is Homs an echo of what happened in Srebrenica?

No entry to the International Red Cross. Not yet. Maybe in a few days, when the area has been secured. Men and boys separated from the women and children. Streams of refugees. Women, children, the old, few males. Stories of men being loaded on to trucks and taken away. Destination unknown. Devastation. No journalists, no freedom of movement for the UN. The place was called Srebrenica.

Will Hawkes: Hampshire a bigger club than Essex? That's a bit rich...

County Focus: Incredibly, Chris Tremlett is the first Hampshire-born Hampshire cricketer to have played Test cricket for England in England

Robin Scott-Elliot: How Beefy used Operation BBQ to rescue English spirits

View From The Sofa: Botham: The Legend of '81, BBC 2

Will Hawkes: Non-stop rain and a deluge of stats adds up to one dull day

View From The Sofa: England v Sri Lanka, Sky Sports 1

Will Hawkes: Too much INXS and plenty of Floyd adds up to a tedious gig

View From The Sofa: Cricket AM, Sky Sports 1

On the Front Foot: Long Room, short fuse as MCC pays lip service to sledging

In an admirable attempt to clean up the game, the MCC and the England and Wales Cricket Board last week began to put their feet down.

Sport on TV: O'Brien hits a purple patch to become the hairo of Ireland

As if smashing England all round the park in Bangalore on Wednesday was not bad enough, Ireland's hero Kevin O'Brien then took his helmet off and revealed his purple quiff to celebrate his historic hundred off 50 balls. Perhaps Shane Warne's Advanced Hair Studio has taken on an acidhead stylist. Purple hair, green beards, orange sideburns – oh no, hang on. That's their natural colour.

Sport on TV: Harmison's wide of the mark but as usual Warne is bang on

Who needs 'Auld Lang Syne' any more? We're all doing the "Sprinkler" now, and the group hug with everyone jigging up and down. Four years ago Steve Harmison was spraying it around, now it's just champagne and Mitchell Johnson that are going all over the place. And for a change, we don't have to try and forget all about the auldest acquaintance in sport.

Sky's the limit for Strauss, who made England real contenders

Ashes holders are not a great team (yet) but remember just how far they have come since their humbling at Shane Warne's hands at the MCG in 2006

Captain: Why it's cricket's toughest job

It is not easy leading a losing side. I know, I played in enough of them and watched the pressure get to Gower, Atherton and Hussain in different ways.
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Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital