Monday, August 15, 2011

Stone Age Love

The average amount of telly watched by the average UK viewers each day hit a new high in the first half of 2011, driven by factors including average people watching more live TV to avoid online spoilers, a series of major news stories which increased the viewership for factual programming and the fact that nobody apart from bankers has any coin so they've more likely to stay in their drum and watch telly. Since the alternative is to go out on the rob. Although, to be fair, quite a few have been exercising that option of late an'all. Viewers are also watching more non-live TV on personal video recorders such as them Sky+ boxes what yer actual Keith Telly Topping doesn't know how to work. UK viewers notched up an average of four hours and three minutes a day of TV watching in the six months to the end of June, an increase of fifty one seconds a day year-on-year, according to a report published on Monday by TV marketing body Thinkbox. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's only observation at this point is only four hours and three minutes?! Viewers were exposed to an average of forty seven adverts a day – up from forty five in the same period last year. Thinkbox, which uses figures from TV audience measurement organisation BARB, said that a number of factors had fuelled the rise in overall viewing. Factors include viewers watching more live TV to avoid spoilers from the proliferation of people tweeting, participating in Facebook groups or updating their personal status and the posting of clips of shows on YouTube. The same social media tools have helped contribute to the growth in viewing as audiences increasingly engage in 'two screen' TV watching – participating in online discussions and comments on a laptop or handheld device while watching shows. Other factors include the increasing ubiquity of personal video recorders such as Sky+ and Freeview+, on-demand TV and innovations such as high definition, which have made television viewing 'more magnetic.' Some good programmes have helped as well, of course. According to BARB, non-live 'time-shifted' viewing accounted for nine per cent of UK's total TV viewing in the first six months – up from just over seven per cent in the same period last year. In households which own a PVR – forty seven per cent of the total – time shifting accounted for 14.7 per cent of total viewing, up from 13.7 per cent in the same period last year. However, Thinkbox believes that the four-hour-a-day mark might well be the peak amount of live TV that people will watch. 'We've been saying for a while that linear TV viewing couldn't keep breaking records forever and that it had to stabilise at some point,' said Lindsey Clay, managing director of Thinkbox. 'It appears that this is now happening. On-demand TV is expanding total TV by adding to this stable linear base.' This blogger, meanwhile, reckons for fours a day is effing tame. From The North remains committed to our mission statement.
You knows it!

Doctor Who star Arthur Darvill has revealed that he will appear in the show's seventh series. Which, presumably, means that Rory won't be dying during the next six episodes. At least ... no more than he has been already! The SF drama has been renewed for fourteen new episodes, including a Christmas special and then, probably (although this hasn't yet been confirmed) a series running from the autumn of 2012 into 2013. That year, of course, is the show's fiftieth anniversary and both the BBC and Steven Moffat have already alluded to a series of 'special plans' for that they have in store for the show as it approaches November 2013. Darvill told SFX: 'I will be coming back at some point [next series]. There is an involvement in some way.' Current Doctor Matt Smith has been confirmed to appear in the show's seventh run, while co-star Karen Gillan recently told Zap2it that she will also remain with the series. Smith recently revealed that upcoming Doctor Who instalment The Girl Who Waited will focus heavily on Gillan's character, claiming that the actress gives 'the performance of her life' in the episode.

Cheeky-chappie Scouse funster John Bishop lured solid audiences for BBC1 and BBC3 on Saturday night, according to the latest overnight data. After John Bishop's Britain had been watched by just a fraction over four million viewers for BBC1 at 9.30pm, 1.1m flocked over to BBC3 for more of Bishop's stand-up on Live At The Apollo between 10pm and 10.45pm. Mind you, at least Bishop's funny. Over on ITV the horribly sycophantic and vile Ronnie Corbett's Comedy Britain tumbled to a truly pathetic 2.42m in the 9pm hour. It was, broadly speaking, a good night all round for the BBC - which they'll be happy about since, with The X Factor starting next week, it's likely to be the last one they'll dominate until December. Casualty pulled in 5.62m for BBC1 between 8.35pm and 9.30pm for its twenty sixth series opener Partners, making the long-running and popular medical drama the most-watched broadcast of the night. However, the margin was small, as its lead-in show The National Lottery: In It To Win It entertained 5.58m, while ITV's highlight of the night was their screening of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which averaged 5.17m between 6.30pm and 9pm. Edited highlights of England's win over India in the cricket kicked off a successful night for Channel Five, scoring 1.07m in the 7pm hour. On Sunday, the new BBC nature series Ocean Giants launched with 5.45m, while Stephen Poliakoff's Glorious 39 premiered on BBC2 with an impressive 2.6m. Ocean Giants, the Stephen Fry-narrated mini-series on the undersea world of whales and dolphins, averaged 5.45m for BBC1 in the 9pm hour, easily outperforming Law & Order: UK's 3.91m on ITV. BBC2's screening of Glorious 39, the classy suspense thriller starring Bill Nighy, Romola Garai and David Tennnat, was watched by 2.43m between 9pm and 11pm, while a further two hundred thousnaid viewers tuned in on BBC HD. A repeat of Top Gear had an audience of 1.86m (9.6%) in the 7pm hour and one hundred and sixty thousand in HD, before the business reality TV show Dragons' Den inexplicably slumped to 2.96m, down over seven hundred and fifty thousand week-on-week. An additional three hundred and eleven thousand watched the show on BBC HD. Britain's Hidden Heritage appealed to 4.87m on BBC1 in the 7pm hour, before Countryfile was the star of the night with 6.3m from 8pm. A rerun of Joanna Lumley's Nile entertained 1.59m on ITV in the 7pm hour, before Born To Shine completely failed to entertain 1.81m from 8pm. One imagines that whoever commissioned that turkey is currently clearing out his or her desk at ITV.

Jeremy Clarkson has criticised the latest wholly made-up tripe from the disgraceful scum-lice end of the national press involving Top Gear, a claim that eighty per cent of the driving on Top Gear is 'done by professionals' instead of the presenters. Some anonymous cowards described as 'show insiders' - so, that'd be dirty snitching Copper's Narks who haven't even got the balls to put their name to their alleged allegations, essentially - recently claimed that experienced racing drivers were employed to do 'most' of the driving for the show's track segments, but the BBC edited it in such a way to make it appear as if hosts Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May had been behind the wheel. 'Certainly most of the time professional drivers are doing the clever stuff on the track. These takes are cut in to the presenters' in-car pieces when the programme goes out to make it look like Clarkson has been driving all the way through,' a 'source' allegedly told the pond scum at the Scum Mail on Sunday. Who, of course, lapped all this up like a fly licking up shit. Cos, let's face it, life wouldn't be life if the Scum Mail didn't have something to whinge about on a daily basis. Scum. Another alleged 'insider' allegedly claimed: 'Top Gear rely on professional racing drivers a lot more than the show would suggest. I would say eighty per cent of the driving on the show is done by pros but it is made to look as if it's done by Jeremy. It's been going on for years.' It was also claimed that a 2008 road test sequence, in which Clarkson drove a Lamborghini Murcielago at two hundred and seven mph on the test track in the rain, was actually carried out by Formula 3 driver Aaron Scott. However, Clarkson has pooh-pah'd at the claims, from scum with an agenda, and insisted that he always does exactly what he is shown on camera doing. 'Any claims that I fake Top Gear road tests are utter rubbish,' he told the Mirra. 'When I say I'm driving at two hundred and seven mph, it's because I'm driving at two hundred and seven mph. If the director chooses later in the day to get a shot of the speedo reading two hundred and seven mph, then good for him.' A BBC spokesperson added: 'Jeremy performs all of the challenges you see him perform on Top Gear. During power tests, the speed at which Jeremy is seen driving is the speed at which he drove the car, so to suggest otherwise is untrue. Yes, professional drivers are used on the show. On the Power Laps, production have the car for a day, and during that time Jeremy has to go off to do scripting, so rather than him driving for a bit and then everyone having some down time and the car just sitting there while he goes off and writes, and because it is a very expensive show to make, other people may do the driving. If you see Jeremy, Richard or James driving a car around a track it is them driving but the crew may need to go back and get "pick-up" shots, which may use another driver.' So, in other words the 'people' whom the Scum Mail on Sunday claimed to have spoken to were lying, then. Either that, or they didn't exist. I'll leave that one up to you to work out for yourselves dear blog reader.

The BBC has been given the green light to extend BBC3's broadcast hours and drop BBC Parliament as part of plans to increase the amount of coverage of the London 2012 Olympics. On Monday the BBC Trust approved the corporation's Olympics coverage plans, which include launching a temporary DAB digital radio service, called BBC 5Live Olympics Extra, and extending live online coverage to complement TV and radio output. BBC3, which usually operates from 7pm to 7am, will air all day during the Olympic period from 19 July to 12 August. The move, which will see the channel's budget increased by four and half million quid to cover the cost, will see BBC3 broadcasting 'predominantly' Olympics coverage, with regular news bulletins every hour and the channel's usual non-sport schedule from 11pm. BBC3's daytime Olympics coverage will take the place of BBC Parliament on Freeview – although it will be available on other platforms including cable, satellite and online. The BBC Trust said that the impact on audiences of removing BBC Parliament from Freeview is expected to be 'minimal' as the channel's unique reach – people who watch no other BBC service – is only about one hundred and twenty thousand. '[This] indicates most have other viewing choices, and the disruption to their usual viewing habits will anyway be temporary,' the BBC Trust said. During the 2008 Beijing Olympics the BBC also suspended the broadcast of BBC Parliament, with the proviso that if parliament were recalled then coverage would resume. The BBC has also been given approval for launching a digital radio service, BBC 5Live Olympics Extra, for 'around twenty days' over the course of the Olympics. The temporary station will have a budget of two hundred thousand smackers. During this time BBC Radio 5Live will continue to offer news and sport, including the Olympics, while 5Live Sports Extra will cover the London Games live except when Test match cricket games are being played. In addition to the BBC's usual online coverage, the corporation has been given permission to offer about one thousand hours of live Olympics video coverage which will not be shown on TV. The extra hours – which will fulfil its commitment to the International Olympic Committee to bring 'every minute' of the event to UK audiences live – is not within the current scope of the BBC Online service licence.

Virgin Media has reportedly sold its fifty per cent stake in pay-TV channel operator UKTV to American broadcaster Scripps Networks Interactive in a deal worth three hundred and thirty nine million smackers. Scripps - which launched its Food Network channel on Freeview in the UK last month - will pay two hundred and thirty nine mill to purchase Virgin Media's shareholding in UKTV, and will also acquire all outstanding preferred stock and debt owed by UKTV to Virgin Media for an additional one hundred million quid. Virgin Media had hoped to secure around three hundred and fifty million - which is, let's all agree, a significant wedge of wonga - for its stake in UKTV, the channel operator formed in 1997 as a joint venture with BBC Worldwide, including outstanding loans and debt. Completion of the transaction is still contingent on regulatory approvals in the Republic of Ireland and Jersey. 'UKTV is a significant opportunity for Scripps Networks Interactive to participate in a thriving multi-channel, dual revenue stream media business in one of the world's largest television markets,' said Kenneth W Lowe, the chairman and chief executive officer of Scripps Networks Interactive. 'Making a solid investment in UKTV and entering into a strong partnership with BBC Worldwide reinforces our core international strategy which we believe will create significant long-term value for our shareholders.' Virgin Media chief executive Neil Berkett added: 'We are pleased to have reached this agreement with Scripps Networks Interactive. This will allow us to continue to focus on providing a transformative experience for our customers by developing our core strategic strength - the UK's leading digital network - alongside our leading entertainment services.' UKTV attracts around thirty six million viewers each month across its portfolio of ten channels, including Dave, Good Food, Watch, GOLD, Yesterday and Alibi. It also operates a variety of websites and video on-demand services, including a brand new VOD platform recently launched on Sky. US broadcaster Discovery had thought to be in the running to pick up the UKTV stake, but Scripps Networks has now snapped up the deal and will become the joint venture partner with BBC Worldwide, the BBC's commercial arm. Scripps said that it is also negotiating an agreement involving Worldwide increasing its stake in UKTV to sixty per cent via a 'combination of cash and a package of digital rights for UKTV.' Under that scenario, Scripps would retain the same voting rights and board representation, although the deal would require approval from the BBC Trust. John Smith, the chief executive of BBC Worldwide, said: 'The launch of UKTV in 1997 created a new secondary platform for content from the BBC and UK independents that has delivered great value back to all stakeholders. We thank Virgin Media for the part it has played in developing the business into one of the most successful pay TV companies in the UK. We welcome Scripps Networks Interactive as our new partner and look forward to working with them to open up further avenues to success. The new agreement we are developing will bring benefits to UKTV's audiences in the way they can consume content and will help to sustain UKTV's track record of growth. It will create the opportunity to drive further value from digital rights on behalf of our stakeholders, particularly our shareholder, the BBC.'

Levi's was recently caught on the hop and forced to postpone the TV and cinema launch of an advertising campaign which included a short that apparently applauded a youth confronting a row of riot police. You've probably read all about in a variety of lice newspapers. But, here's one you might have missed, it seems Sky Atlantic have also had to do a hasty rethink. As Broadcast magazine pointed out, they'd haplessly plumped for a marketing campaign using the slogan 'the original crime family – sponsored by BlackBerry' to promote its drama The Borgias. Ouch.

Jane Asher is to guest-star in an episode of BBC1's school drama Waterloo Road. The Digital Spy website report that the actress will play a school inspector who turns up at the comprehensive school to evaluate the school's progressing following its previous problems. The report adds that the actress will appear in one episode. Asher previously played Lady Byrne in fellow BBC1 drama Holby City and Angel Samson, the glamorous Hotel owner, in Crossroads in 2003. Her other notable roles, in a career stretching back to the 1950s when she was a child star, include Queen Charlotte in The Palace, Sally in The Old Guys, Faith Ashley in Wish Me Luck and Celia Ryder in Brideshead Revisited. The actress has also made guest appearances in The Sarah Jane Adventures, Tales of the Unexpected, Murder Most Horrid, New Tricks and episodes of both Poirot and Miss Marple. Not forgetting The Masque of the Red Death, Alfie, Deep End, Runners. Et cetera.

House creator David Shore has said that the show will 'go back to basics' in the upcoming eighth season. The next run of the FOX medical drama will introduce new regular characters played by Odette Annable and Charlyne Yi. 'Bringing in new blood into the hospital is always an opportunity,' Shore told TV Guide. 'House is at his best when he's dealing with new people and new situations and making deductions about new people and these situations.' He continued: 'I certainly think the way we're starting this year is really invigorating and we're going back to our roots a little bit.' Shore insisted that bringing in new characters is 'the best way to go back to basics. This [move] allows us to take a fresh look at who House is, to get fresh eyes on his character and how unusual he is,' he said. 'Through these new characters' viewpoints, we get a jaded view of House.' The showrunner also revealed that the new season of House will focus less on the central character's love life. 'I don't want [the show] to be about relationships in the sense of who's sleeping with who,' he said. 'At least not in the foreseeable future. It's about relationships in terms of how these people relate to each other. And the impact House's world view has on all the people around him.'

E4 has revealed what it plans to replace Friends with when the series leaves the broadcaster later this year. Friends has been a fixture of E4 since the digital channel launched in 2001, indeed, despite the fact the comedy ended in 2004 the series is still repeated several times daily on E4. However, in February of 2010 it was revealed that from the Autumn of 2011 Friends would be leaving E4 as the broadcaster had opted not to renew its deal to air episodes of the comedy. So just what will E4 fill the void left by Friends? E4 has revealed it intends to replace Friends with a mixture of programming with The Big Bang Theory, The Inbetweeners and Made in Chelsea expected to fill some of the void. E4 will also broadcast some movies in the old slot of 8pm - allowing them to run through to 10pm unhindered. E4 will also have more money to spend, freed up by not renewing the deal, and has also picked up new shows such as Apartment Twenty Three. For those fans of Friends who feel they just won't be able to cope without catching the endless repeats of the comedy fear not - it may be leaving E4 but it isn't disappearing from cable all together. Comedy Central will take over airing episodes of the series this autumn. Or, alternatively, you could always just buy the DVDs.

Meanwhile, fans of The Apprentice will be delighted to learn that Talkback Thames, which makes the BBC1 series, has trademarked two ideas dreamed up during the last run – Helen's team's children's biscuits Special Stars, and Tom and Helen's patriotic eatery chain MyPy – with the aim of making them a commercial reality. A development which, however, could potentially lead to future programmes facing criticism à la Andrew Lloyd Webber for being free advertising, if more sellable wheezes emerge. Disappointingly, though, no plans have been announced to turn Jedi Jim Eastwood's brilliantly branded magazine for the over-fiftiess, Hip Replacement, into a mass-market proposition. And Marketing Week troublingly reports that Stewart Baggs, the full-of-himself former contestant on the Alan Sugar show, has trademarked his own name 'to protect his intellectual property ahead of appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.' God save us all from armchair 'celebrities.'

Radio 4 and the BBC World Service are developing a drama about England's failed bid to host the 2018 football World Cup. The drama documentary, which is expected to air on both radio stations later this year, will explore the three days in Zurich in December last year when English optimism turned to despair and the Football Association's bid crashed out in the first round of voting. Matthew Solon, who wrote The Day that Lehman Died about the collapse of Wall Street banking giant Lehman Brothers in 2008, is working on the script. It will be directed by a veteran of radio drama John Dryden. It is understood that the BBC is keen to get a flavour of events leading up to the failed bid, which remains mired in controversy following allegations members of the FIFA committee were bribed. On the day of the announcement some members of a grim-faced England bid team, including the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and the former England captain, Gary Lineker, retreated to the back of the hall as it emerged that England had been knocked out in the first round. England's representative on FIFA's executive committee, Geoff Thompson, counted for one vote, while Japan provided the other. A late lobbying push led by the prime minister David Cameron, David Beckham and Prince William and a well-received final presentation was not enough to avoid a humiliating exit which sparked huge recriminations. Instead, Russia – the long-time favourites backed by the FIFA president Sepp Blatter – won with their pitch to open up new markets. 'We can promise you a World Cup you will never forget. Let us make history together,' said Vitaly Mutko, the Russian sports minister. The decision came as a bitter blow to the FA, which spent fifteen million quid on the bid at a time when it was already under financial pressure. Before voting began, a Sunday Times investigation led to the suspension of several senior FFIA officials, including two executive committee members, while a BBC Panorama documentary which implicated four more sparked a desperate damage limitation exercise from the England bid as they tried to contain a furious backlash from FIFA voters.

Disney's much-anticipated big-screen adaptation of The Lone Ranger starring Johnny Depp has been put on hold, according to industry reports. Deadline Hollywood said that the studio had stopped pre-production over problems with reducing the movie's estimated two hundred and fifty million dollars cost. The Social Network star Armie Hammer was set to play the masked Texas Ranger with Depp as his kimu-sabe (and, if Quantum Jump are correct, gay lover) Tonto. Filming had been due to begin in October in New Mexico. Jerry Bruckheimer had been lined up to produce the film, with Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski also on board. Deadline reported a 'source close to the film,' who said producers were now discussing whether to take the project to another film studio or to continue at a later date with a lower budget. The Lone Ranger - about a ranger battling injustice in the Old West - first aired on the radio in the US in the 1930s and became a popular TV series running from 1949 to 1957.

The Batwing has been involved in a collision during a Dark Knight Rises shoot. No actors or crew members were hurt in the crash, which occurred when the vehicle hit a streetlamp during a Pittsburgh chase scene, ICv2 reports. 'Sources' allegedly confirm that one of the wings was torn of the aircraft, but prop technicians were on hand to repair the damage. The shot was attempted for a second time with apparant success. The near miss marks the second on-set accident since Dark Knight Rises began filming. Earlier this month, a botched stunt sequence destroyed a valuable IMAX camera. The Batwing's inclusion in the Christopher Nolan film was confirmed when leaked video footage showed Batman in the vehicle, giving chase to an armoured car believed to driven by Tom Hardy's Bane.

Jeff Stewart - PC Reg Hollis in ITV soap The Bill - has spoken of his delight at winning a prize at the Manhattan Film Festival in New York. Stewart, fifty five, was honoured for his role as a German living in 1940s Russia in low-budget movie Under Jakob's Ladder. The Scottish-born actor described his win last month as 'extraordinary.' Stewart was treated in hospital in 2008, reportedly for slashing his wrists, after he was released from the long-running ITV police drama. At the time he reassured fans saying: 'The last few days have been very difficult for me. But I am receiving the right care and help and am surrounded by family and friends.' Stewart, who had been part of the cast since 1984, had been told his contract was not being renewed. He went on to appear in a music video for the indie pop band Miike Snow. In Under Jakob's Ladder, Stewart plays a teacher named Jakob Seel who was arrested by the secret police and thrown into prison. It was written and directed by Roberto and Mann Munoz, Seel's real-life grandsons. 'When they said "The best actor goes to Jeff Stewart," a cold shiver went from the tips of my toes to the top of my head,' Stewart told the Sun. 'I heard the announcement but it was like, "Did he really say that?"' The Manhattan Film Festival was founded in 2006 by independent filmmakers Philip J Nelson and Jose Ruiz Jr. Under Jakob's Ladder was also named best period piece at this year's event.

England have named an unchanged thirteen-man squad for the final Test with India at The Oval starting on Thursday. Jonathan Trott has not recovered from a shoulder injury so Ravi Bopara, who deputised in the innings-and-two hundred and forty two-run win at Edgbaston, remains in the squad. Pacemen Chris Tremlett, who has missed the last two Tests with a back injury, and Steven Finn are also in the party. The win at Edgbaston gave England a three-nil lead in the four-match series and moved them to the top of the world rankings for the first time. England are expected to name an unchanged eleven at The Oval but national selector Geoff Miller said that Tremlett and Finn could still feature as the team seek their first Test series whitewash over India since a three-nil success in a three match series in 1974. Meanwhile, that oily snake David Cameron has successfully wrapped himself in the flag again and hailed the performance of the team. As though he had anything to do with it, the nasty little politician, he. England were propelled to the top of world Test rankings after defeating India at Edgbaton. Cameron said he watched the closing stages of the match and lauded the 'massive team effort.' All I want to know is, in a week when four the country's major cities have been up in smoke, what the hell is the prime minister doing sitting watching a cricket match on TV? Don't you have naything more important to do with your time, sir? 'I congratulate the England cricket team on their fantastic achievement. Their performance in this Test - including England's highest-ever innings score in a non-timeless Test and Alastair Cook's magnificent two hundred and ninety four - against the team that has up to now been ranked number one in the world, is a tribute to their domination of the sport,' Cameron was quoted, as saying by the Daily Mirra. Does anybody else believe, for a single second, that Cameron knows what a 'timeless Test' was or what the difference is between it and the one that was played this week? Nope, thought not. 'I watched the closing overs on the sofa at home and will remember the joy of the crowd at Edgbaston and England getting to number one in such style for a long time to come,' he added. Fine, now get back to work and get the bloody economy sorted, you workshy fop. England were simply light years ahead of the Indians who, like the Australians vanquished earlier in the year, seemed unable to absorb the magnitude of just what has happened to them. The response of the Indian board - which referred to the adverse effect of injuries on its side's prospects - hardly suggests a top-to-bottom overhaul is imminent. That England's margins of victory have grown with each match is an accurate reflection of the way that the team has turned the psychological screw on their opponents. Only twice before have India lost more heavily than by an innings and two hundred and forty two runs. With time, England will have its own challenges to address. When it was winning the Ashes home and away or crushing Pakistan last summer, its mantra was that doing so was merely a step on the road to reaching number one, a position that it had never achieved since the rankings were officially introduced in 2003. Now it has got there, it has the altogether trickier task of staying there whilst rivals will snap at its heels. Andrew Strauss's initial response to how this task might be met was to steer clear of specifics, not wanting to be drawn into the importance of England next year beating South Africa in a three-match series at home and India away. This may be because he is unsure whether he will still by then be El Sumpremo. He could, at some stage, see the advantages of quitting while he is ahead. For the moment however, he and his players can savour the delicious taste of victory and an extraordinary sequence of results. This was England's sixth successive series win, a run that encompasses fourteen wins in nineteen matches and six innings victories in the space of the last twelve Tests. Only history can judge how good this England side is, but it has the raw material of a true champion team. Strauss was yesterday keen to deflect discussion away from his merits as captain in favour of praising the collective responsibility of his players, but his legacy as one of the nation's all-time great leaders is secure. This was his twentieth win (in thirty eight Tests), putting him level with Peter May and second only among England captains to Michael Vaughan with twenty six. Strauss will be presented with the ICC's mace, which is held by the world's top Test team, after this week's final Test at The Oval. The hallmark of all truly great sides - the West Indies during the late 1970s and throught the 1980s, or the Australians in the 1990s and early 2000s - is that they prevent their opponents from playing well. But even so, few sides have failed quite so spectacularly to live up to their hype as the Indians here. (England under Andrew Flintoff after they'd won the Ashes for the first time in eighteen years in Australia five years ago might run them close.) MS Dhoni, whose second fifty of the match was a futile attempt to prevent a first series defeat as captain, declined to blame the Indian board's scheduling for his side appearing so unfit and ill-prepared for the war. Dhoni, though, can hardly blame others when he has in the past opted to rest from Test matches shortly after playing a season of IPL. Money appears to have distorted priorities in Indian cricket. For the sake of pride and sparing themselves being burned in effigy back home, the Indian players might well have wanted to take the Edgbaston match into a fifth day but they had neither the technique nor the resolve to keep up the fight against an England side that had the scent blood in its nostrils. There is still another match to go in this series, so the precise calculations and official confirmation must wait. But as from now England are indisputably the number one ranked side in the world. 'No doubt about it,' as Duncan Fletcher would say. England's former coach, the fellow who oversaw the beginning of the reformation that led to the top, is now the man who has sat stony-faced on the balcony of the visitors' dressing room as his former charges have dismantled his current brood of superstars. England cannot have climbed the final path to the summit in finer style, humiliating the Australians in their backyard last winter and now dismantling India at home with a swagger. It has been relentless, uncompromising, brutal at times, and for gob-smacked England supporters of long-standing, used to the Feydeau-farce selection policies and inept performances of the last decades of the previous millennium, it has been utterly and disbelievingly compelling. Strauss and his team can be proud of what they have achieved, success based not on fancy individuality that can often prove a distraction but blue-collar, rather conservative traditional values of hard work, skills, team ethic, dedication and application. Fortunately, they ignored that other One Nation Tory pillar of respect and deference for their supposed betters in giving the all-conquering Indians a ruddy good hiding. They enjoy their personal success but more than that, they revel in that of their colleagues. The moment has been hard-earned and they deserve to celebrate accordingly. Yet, before the open-top buses are brought from the garage and the gongs polished, a sense of perspective is needed. England's position, while a reflection of the manner in which they have played their cricket of late, also tells a story of a decline in the standard at the top, where for three decades first the West Indies and then Australia set the bench-mark by which all teams must now be measured. England's current points ranking – which will change upwards at the end of the series – is one hundred and seveteen, a point behind South Africa, ranked second to India. Five years ago, England's ranking was two points higher, and they were the second best side in the world. Or rather, daylight was the second best, so far ahead of everyone else were Ricky Ponting's Australians. It mattered not, particularly, who was second then because it was never a topic of conversation. Now the rankings are in a state of flux and they will very likely remain so for eighteen months to two years, their volatility almost a metaphor for global financial uncertainties. Australia (and now India) appear to be in a period of transition. With Pakistan you never really know which one is going to turn up whilst the West Indies days as a world cricketing super power appear to be long behind them. Sri Lanka are formidable at home but don't travel well. So that just leaves South Africa as the only other side in the world with pretensions of genuine greatness. As the Indian opener Gautam Gambhir remarked the other day: 'Getting to number one is the easy part. Staying there is more difficult.' For Strauss and coach Andy Flower, this is just genesis. But, as with Under Milk Wood, to begin at the beginning – or, rather, beginnings, for the main stream of progress, by no means steady, contains a number of tributaries. There have been two empathetic chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, Lord MacLaurin and Giles Clarke, businessmen who understood that cricket in this country, right down to the very bottom levels, was predicated on the success of the senior England team, and therefore decided to resource it at a level undreamed of in previous years. There have been three head coaches, Fletcher and Flower either side of the relatively brief tenure of Peter Moores. The turmoil created by the friction between the latter and Kevin Pietersen was influential in Moores' introduction of some key personnel, not least the fielding coach, Richard Halsall, and, of course, Flower as batting coach. And there have been five captains during the last decade – Nasser Hussain, Michael Vaughan, Andrew Flintoff, Pietersen and Strauss. Each of them - even Flintoff, albeit briefly - has made a significant impact. The catalyst for change came on 22 August 1999. England had just suffered an eighty three-run defeat by New Zealand in the final Test which gave the tourists the series and Hussain, in charge for the first time, stood on the balcony at The Oval and listened to the boos of the crowd in the knowledge that in light of the official rankings, at any rate, his was the worst international team of them all. (Worse, even, than Zimbabwe. Bangladesh had yet to play their initial test match.) That winter, for the tour of South Africa, Hussain met Fletcher for the first time, and between them – Hussain the firebrand, the coach a shrewd pragmatist with a management model – and after a disastrous start at the Wanderers that saw England two for four on the first day, they began the process of dragging the team up by their bootstraps. Central contracts were introduced in 2000, by MacLaurin, in response to the criticism that in reality the England Test team was little more than an ad hoc group of county cricketers brought together for the occasional match. There was little or no preparation. For the first time, those who ran the England team had a control over those who played. Hussain cared neither for niceties or popularity but he gained immense respect: first he and Fletcher taught England how not to lose matches and then they taught them how to win. Four successive series were won, most notably at home against West Indies, a first such triumph in thirty one years, and away to Pakistan and Sri Lanka in 2002, the last representing astounding achievements to rank with England's finest. In 2004 Hussain, coming to the end of his career, handed over to the prgmatic Yorkshireman Vaughan. More freewheeling, he allowed his side more space and began to see the benefits – there was a series of six successive series wins, starting with a historic success in the Caribbean with Flintoff and Steve Harmison to the fore and including eight Test victories on the bounce, a sequence unheard of for seventy five years. It culminated in 2005 in what must still rank as England's greatest achievement, when they beat a truly magnificent Australian team - Ponting, Gilchrist, Wanre, McGrath, the lot - without equivocation of rankings the finest cricket team on earth at that time. If the celebrations after the win were excessive, the success was rather transient. The side had already started to fragment during the Ashes series and that process continued with Vaughan's knee keeping him out of the test sdie for much of the next eighteen months and Marcus Trescothick's dreadful illness starting to manifest itself. Fletcher made Flintoff captain, a task he managed well enough in a drawn series in India but with disastrous consequences in Australia the following winter, when England's stock plummeted faster than the Dow Jones during a banking crisis. Fletcher's employers commissioned the Schofield report and its recommendations centred, among other things, on preparation. By the end of the 2007 World Cup Fletcher was gone, replaced by Moores. It was an appointment from within the ECB elite coaching programme instigated by Fletcher. By now Vaughan's injury was proving terminal to his career and he was replaced by Pietersen, who after a fractious relationship with Moores, particularly on a difficult tour of India, took it upon himself to represent player resentment to the ECB. A consequence of that was the removal not just of Moores but Pietersen as well. They were replaced by Flower, although only on a temporary basis at that stage, and Strauss. For this pair Jamaica in February 2009 was the turning point. Bowled out humiliatingly for fifty one, something which ultimately led to the loss of the series to West Indies and fifth place in the Test rankings, they decided that enough was enough. Ian Bell was made a scapegoat a move that, with time, proved key to his development as a batsman of world class, and a renewed focus on team development was instigated. Go to any England match now, and you will find the support staff on the ground by 8.30am, setting out their stalls. When, last week, John Humphrys on the Today programme spoke to Graham Gooch for a comment on whether the Edgbaston Test would go ahead, in light of the riots in Birmingham, the batting coach was already in the nets with Alastair Cook. We know to what heroics that led. There was a time when such dedication would have been unthinkable. Since Flower's appointment on a full-time basis, the rise has been inexorable. Of nine series since then, eight have been won – including the Ashes twice, home and away – and other one, in South Africa in 2009-10, was drawn. Now the side that had claimed bragging rights as the world's best have not just been beaten, but humiliated. And from it all, those countries with ambition to better themselves in Test cricket are studying the England model and learning. That has never happened before and there can be no greater tribute than that. Shocked by the Indian cricket team's dismal performance in the ongoing Test series against England, former players lined up to lambast the side's lack of fitness, poor bench strength, the sheer absence of a fighting spirit and over-dependence on some seniors. You know, just like old farts like Freddie Trueman and Boycott used to do the same thing with England in years gone by. 'It weren't laaaike that in t'maaaaa day.' Former captain Anil Kumble conceded that Andrew Strauss' men have been 'simply too good' for India but added that 'cannot stop the questions being raised' about India's lack of preparedness. 'There is some merit in each of the "whys" that have been discussed as the reason for India's poor showing: fatigue, mental and physical, lack of culture of fitness, lack of preparation, the almost child-like belief that since everything has been going well so far, it will continue to do so and sheer momentum will carry India over the line, the injuries to key players Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag. It is a long list,' he said. 'There is something very Indian about lack of fitness - not too many players are keen on the hard work and the sacrifices that go towards keeping them at their peak in crucial series. In India, we usually leave it to the players but some of the trust might have been shaken after this,' he added. But Kumble also pointed out that England were perhaps too well-prepared for the series. 'When the number one team in the world loses a series by a huge margin, their drawbacks get exagerrated and their rivals are often not given their due. England were too good for India, a fact that some fans might find dificult to digest,' Kumble said in his column. Former captain Sourav Ganguly said that losing three Tests in a row was 'unthinkable' and India will have to ensure that it was just a one-off affair. 'You can lose Test matches but losing three in a row and not scoring any big total, it is something to be worried about. Is it a one-off affair or the beginning of the demise of the side we have to see,' he said. Another former captain Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, after whose father the trophy of the India-England series is named, said he does not see much change in the way the BCCI works even after the humiliating loss. 'I don't want to sound a pessimist but I actually fear that players are going to say that it's only a bad dream, just forget it and get on. BCCI is not going to show a great deal of vision. Cricket will continue the way it is but I sincerely hope that some sense does come in,' Pataudi said. Former Australian skipper Ian Chappell led the chorus of international criticism against the Indian cricket team, saying its performance have been 'abysmal' and things could get 'worse before they get better' for the side. Because, of course, Hell will freeze over before Chappell has anything good to say about England. 'This disastrous tour has been a while in the making. The selectors' failure to address issues like an ageing batting line-up, a declining off-spinner, and substandard fielding in the five-day game, has finally come home to roost,' Chappell said. 'The shrewdness of MS Dhoni's captaincy, the potency of Virender Sehwag's strokeplay, and the bowling of Zaheer Khan have all done a better job than spackle in covering up the Indian cracks. But like firemen on their sliding pole, the descent for India will be much quicker than their steady climb up the rankings was,' he added. Chappell blamed the selectors for what seems to be lack of bench strength in Indian cricket in a column published in the Hindustan Times. 'In all likelihood, India will be ranked number three by the time they tour Australia. Following three heavy losses to England in the last Ashes series, Australia, it was assumed, would be easy pickings for India. I wouldn't be so sure. With all Australia's problems - and there are many, with two reviews into poor performance running concurrently - they do have fast-bowling potential. If they get the bulk of their young fast bowlers fit for selection, Australia should field a decent pace attack. If they do, the Indian selectors, who have been negligent in their duty, could face their worst nightmare,' Chappell added. England's cricketer-turned-commentator Tony Greig also took a dig at the BCCI for the team's poor show. 'Who will the BCCI blame for this fiasco? Who do Indian cricket supporters blame?' Australian spin legend Shane Warne said the Indians have lacked the stomach to fight. 'Feel for India - but also feel they have let themselves down-have not played with any desire or fight. Hopefully they learn from this series,' tweeted Warne. 'England deserve to be number one team in the world - they have a hunger, passion and play with an intensity - nice to watch them play!' England will face a difficult task to stay at the top of the pile. This winter, after a one-day series in India, they travel to Dubai and Abu Dhabi to take on Pakistan in three Tests before a two-Test series in Sri Lanka. Next summer features home Test series against West Indies and South Africa, the team Michael Vaughan rates as the most capable of ousting England. 'In Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, South Africa have two match-winning bowlers,' he said. 'But I'm not sure if they have the depth that England have. For years Australia had that real depth in their squad. England have that now and they will take some catching.'

The Daily Torygraph – with Simon Heffer gone and most of its remaining blowhards presumably still on their holidays – was unable to field commentators on the riots matching the apocalyptic jeremiads of the Daily Scum Mail's Max Hastings ('years of liberal dogma, blah, blah, they are essentially wild beasts, blah blah, how do you inculcate values in a child whose only role model is Wayne Rooney?'). And, the vile and odious Melanie Phillips ('a three-decade liberal experiment smashing virtually every social value, balh blah, young people straight out of Lord of the Flies, blah blah, the smouldering embers of our burnt-out cities, blah blah, the ruins of the Britain we have so dearly loved'). Christ almighty, love, it's not that bad. Yes, there's been a few riots but at least we're winning in the cricket! So, anyway, it was left to Torygraph letter writers to fill the gap. One contributor in particular outstripping even the Scum Mail in hardline radicalism: 'I am a farmer,' JA Boyd of Lenham, Kent wrote crisply on Thursday. 'We shoot vermin.' Thanks for your contribution to the debate, Mr Boyd, sir. We'll let you know.

And so we come to today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, an anthem of teenage rebellion designed to get right up Melanie Phillips's hooter, it would seem. Tell 'em all about it, you riot grrls.

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