Saturday, July 20, 2013

I Have Ten Lagers Then I Have Ten More

The title of Sherlock's third series finale has been revealed. The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat-written episode will be called His Last Vow, which is, obviously, a reference to Arthur Conan Doyle's 1917 short story His Last Bow (also the title of the short story collection in which it appeared). The first and second episodes, as previously announced, are entitled The Empty Hearse (based on The Adventure Of The Empty House) and The Sign of Three (modelled, clearly, on the classic 1890 novel The Sign of Four). His Last Vow will be directed by Doctor Who's Nick Hurran. Filming on the episode - featuring yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman his very self - is due to commence in approximately two weeks' time, with the first two episodes having completed shooting in May.

The Simpsons are set to meet the Griffins in a crossover episode of Family Guy next year. FOX announced the two families would meet in an episode titled The Simpsons Guy, where the Griffins take a road trip to Springfield. Simpsons voice actors Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith and Hank Azaria will all guest-star in the episode. The show is scheduled to be broadcast in the US next autumn. FOX said that the episode will see the Griffins 'greeted by a friendly stranger named Homer Simpson who welcomes his new "albino" friends with open arms.' The families become fast-friends with Stewie becoming obsessed with Bart and his pranks, while Lisa takes Meg under her wing, determined to find something at which she excels. Meanwhile Marge and Lois ditch housework for a bonding session and Peter and Homer fight over whose town has the better beer: Quahog's Pawtucket or Springfield's Duff. In its announcement, FOX offered reaction from the animated patriarchs. 'Fox hasn't spent this much money since they took Simon Cowell tight T-shirt shopping,' Peter Griffin said. Homer Simpson added: 'Finally I can get my hands on this guy!' The shows have often poked fun at each other over the years - one episode of The Simpsons featured Italian police looking through a book of criminals, in which Peter Griffin's picture appears. Another episode of Family Guy features a dozen Simpsons characters sitting on the jury where Peter is standing trial for drug possession. However the rivalry has grown more friendly recently, with Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane voicing a prominent character in the The Simpsons' twenty fourth series finale.

The BFI have announced details for its Doctor Who celebratory screenings marking the eras of the eighth and tenth Doctors - with both happening within a week of each other - but in reverse order. Well, it's a show about time-travel, I guess that's allowed. The tenth Doctor - David Tennant - will be honoured on Sunday 29 September at 2pm with the series four two-part finale The Stolen Earth and Journey's End, while the sole TV outing for the eighth Doctor - Paul McGann - the 1996 TV Movie Doctor Who, will be shown on the big screen on Saturday 5 October at 10am. The adventures are being shown at BFI Southbank as part of the organisation's Doctor Who At Fifty season. The series four episodes - written by Russell Davies and directed by Graeme Harper - were first broadcast on 28 June and 5 July 2008 respectively, and saw the universe crumbling and a number of planets, including Earth, having been stolen by Davros as part of his plot threatening the whole of reality. Julian Bleach took on the role of The Daleks' creator, with all the companions seen in the revamped series uniting with The Doctor to defeat the mad Kaled scientist his Daleks spawn. Meanwhile, the big-budget TV vovie - written by Matthew Jacobs and directed by Geoffrey Sax - was originally shown in the UK on 27 May 1996 (although it had its global TV premiere in Canada on 12 May 1996, having been filmed entirely in the country) and saw the seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) regenerate into the eighth. It also featured the return of The Master - played rather well, actually, by Eric Roberts - and a new-look TARDIS interior, in an adventure set in San Francisco on Millennium Eve as The Master attempts to take The Doctor's remaining regenerations. Tickets to both events will be issued via a ballot system through the BFI members' section.

Doctor Who once again featured heavily in the BBC Worldwide Annual Report, making clear how important the series is to the corporation and putting the fall in so-called 'headline sales' for the company down to the lower number of Doctor Who episodes produced this year. The report details how the revenue from superbrands such as Doctor Who, Top Gear and Strictly Come Dancing contribute twenty seven per cent of BBC Worldwide's headline sales. BBC Worldwide exists to exploit the BBC's commercial assets, raising money which can be returned to the corporation for reinvestment in programmes. Doctor Who has numerous mentions in this year's annual report, which details the performance of the BBC's assets around the world. Doctor Who remains one of BBC Worldwide's biggest brands, sold to over two hundred territories around the world. It is named as a key part of the digital business strategy, where sales are up by 22.8 per cent on last year. The report details how the series seven premiere - Asylum Of The Daleks - was the most-watched telecast in the history of BBC America and how, in Australia, the first-ever cinema night of two episodes from series six was number three at the Australian box office.

One of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite actors, Naveen Andrews, has signed on to star in the upcoming Once Upon A Time spin-off, Once Upon A Time In Wonderland. The casting news was announced during the Once Upon A Time Comic-Con panel in San Diego on Saturday. Andrews is set to play Jafar, 'the villainous sorcerer' who first appeared in Disney's 1992 animated film Aladdin. This new incarnation of Jafar will, apparently, be 'radically different' to the animated version, continuing the franchise's tradition of creating modern day versions of familiar Disney characters. Producers of the show informed fans at the Comic-Con panel that unlike Once Upon A Time, Wonderland is due to meet its resolution by the end of the first season. Set in Victorian England, Wonderland will star Sophie Lowe, Michael Socha, and John Lithgow.

Yer actual Karen Gillan her very self has shaved her head for her role in Guardians Of The Galaxy. The former Doctor Who actress showed off her new baldy look during the Marvel Studios Press Line at Comic-Con on Saturday evening. 'It's liberating,' Kazza said of her new hairstyle - or, lack of it. 'I think everyone here should shave their heads.' She had appeared at Comic-Con with a full head of hair on Friday, which was later revealed to be a wig. Guardians Of The Galaxy co-star Zoe Saldana, who plays Gamora, said at the event that the cast and crew have 'eighty five per cent of the movie left to shoot. This is sort of like the anti-hero hero movie,' she added. 'We're meeting these characters, they're thieves, they're rebels, they're assassins, and they're going to be learning very big lessons.' Guardians Of The Galaxy is scheduled for released on 1 August 2014.

The actress Briony McRoberts, who appeared in the Scottish drama Take The High Road for nine years and also starred in Taggart and EastEnders, has died after being hit by a Tube train near her home. Her body was found at Fulham Broadway station just after 8.30am on Wednesday.

The so-called 'Sachsgate' controversy erupted because of a bias against the BBC, comedian Russell Brand has said. Brand and fellow presenter Jonathan Ross caused a - wholly manufactured - media-storm in 2008 when they broadcast lewd answerphone messages left for the veteran actor Andrew Sachs. Brand told BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs that the incident was 'exploited' by elements of the media seeking - specifically the Daily Scum Mail - to 'attack and diminish the BBC.' The Sachsgate affair resulted in Brand and the controller of Radio 2 resigning, Ross being suspended from broadcasting for three months and a review being held into the way BBC output was vetted. Brand told Desert Island Discs presenter Kirsty Young: 'Anything that damages something I love, I'm going to feel sorry for. And I'm sorry also because the story I tell myself, of myself, is not that I am a man who is rude to people who are in a position of vulnerability - but what's difficult, Kirsty, is there was obviously a pre-existing agenda in privately-owned media to destabilise, attack and diminish the BBC.' He claimed that the thousands of people who complained were 'motivated by an agenda' - and a pretty damn sick on at that - against publicly-funded media. He said: 'After the show there were two complaints. After it was in the Daily Mail there were subsequently forty two thousand complaints.' Brand added: 'I'm sure their offence was genuine - it was wrong, and I apologise for that - but how the information is presented is important.' He continued: 'The thing I want to address here, the thing that forty two thousand people were offended by is offensive. It is offensive if someone calls up an answerphone, does some swearing, hangs up. But if, incrementally, that act is led to by a series of innuendos and in-jokes, then it is a different thing. It is still a thing that is wrong, but it's not the thing that they are offended by.'

A major US science fiction series is to be filmed in Scotland, bringing about two hundred new jobs and the construction of a new television studio near Glasgow. Outlander will be adapted from American writer Diana Gabaldon's international best-selling series of seven books. It tells the story of Claire and James Fraser, using time travel to slip between Eighteenth and Twentieth Century Scotland. One of the lead roles will be played by Scot's actor Sam Heughan, whose previous credits include River City. The thirty two-year-old, who was born in Dumfriesshire, graduated from The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. He has also starred in TV series Doctors and appeared in an episode of Rebus. It is estimated that Outlander could generate as many as two thousand four hundred supporting roles for other actors across the UK. American cable network Starz and global television studio, Sony Pictures Television, are behind the new series, which is due to start filming this year. The series will be written and executive produced by Jim Kohlberg and Ronald D Moore, who has worked on Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: The Next Generation. It will be co-produced by Left Bank Pictures, Tall Ship Productions, Story Mining and Supply Company. The Chancellor, odious George Osborne, said that the production would 'benefit' from a UK government decision last year to extend film tax reliefs to high-end television productions. This effectively provides a tax credit worth twenty per cent of corporation tax. Osborne said: 'I am delighted that Outlander will be filmed in Scotland, and welcome the extra investment that will be made to the Scottish television industry. I hope that this series will make the most of the stunning landscape and the talented actors, crew and facilities that Scotland has to offer.'

The manager of singer Tulisa Contostavlos has written to the chairman of the culture and media select committee to whinge about a Sun on Sunday 'sting operation' on his client. Jonathan Shalit's letter to John Whittingdale expresses his 'grave concern' about the article, published on 2 June, and the 'journalistic methods' used to obtain it, arguing that it amounted to 'entrapment.' The front page story, headlined Tulisa's cocaine deal shame, was billed as a 'world exclusive' and written by the former Scum of the World investigations editor, Mazher Mahmood. It stated that Tulisa had been 'sensationally exposed' as 'a drug fixer who set up an eight hundred pound cocaine deal' and claimed that she arranged for 'a friend' to supply 'half-an-ounce of the class A drug.' Two days after the article appeared, Tulisa attended a London police station by arrangement, was arrested and made a formal statement, which Shalit quotes in his letter. It said: 'I was approached by what I now know to be three journalists from the Sun who pretended to be producing a film. We all met on a number of occasions over a few weeks. During these meetings alcohol was freely available. During this time the journalists also sent texts and spoke to me on the phone. The journalists persuaded me that they wanted me to play the lead role in a major film for which I was to be paid a large amount of money. They described the lead character as being similar to me as portrayed in the media and in my book. At that time I was trying to find a role in a film and so was keen to be offered the part. During our meetings the journalists asked me a number of intimate questions about my private life. I answered these, sometimes in an exaggerated manner, in an attempt to persuade them of my suitability for the part. The impression given by reports in the Sun newspaper is unfair an mislaying, and my words have often been taken out of context. I am not a drug dealer. I did not initiative the supply of drugs to the Sun journalists and had no intention of being concerned in their supply.' Shalit goes on to contend: 'It is plain that the undercover journalists set out to entrap her. This was not an attempt to expose pre-existing criminality; rather there was an extensive, sustained and deliberate campaign to lute her into committing an offence.' Shalit alleges that the journalists, while posing as film producers, 'flew Tulisa and two friends first class from Los Angeles to Las Vegas,' hosted them in 'five-star hotel suites,' supplied 'large amounts of alcohol' at meetings, and 'frequently asked Tulisa about drugs.' Over the course of several weeks, Shalit claims to Whittingdale, 'the journalists gave the impression that they were regular users of cocaine and sought to induce Tulisa to share cocaine with them.' He refers to these activities as 'elaborate, repeated, concerted attempts to artificially create crime in order that they could then "expose" it.' Shalit accuses the paper of 'being commercially motivated' (no shit!) rather than 'some altruistic desire to being criminality to justice.' He further alleges that the Sun has failed to provide 'all the relevant evidence in its possession to the police.' In his conclusion, Shalit mentions the Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry and report: 'Following on from Leveson, it seems time to draw the line as to what are acceptable and unacceptable journalistic practices. There have of course been legitimate times when journalists have unearthed crimes that otherwise would not have been prosecuted, which I also applaud. However, this is very different to the entrapment of a twenty four-year-old pop singer/TV judge on the basis of an ill-informed tip-off with no real proof [which] clearly crosses all boundaries of acceptability.' A Sun spokesperson said: 'The Sun's investigation into Tulisa Contostavlos is entirely justified in the public interest. We have handed our dossier of evidence to the police and there is a live investigation ongoing. We observed the PCC code throughout the investigation and only used subterfuge because there was no other means of securing proof.'

Yer actual Mad Frankie Boyle says that he has not eaten for four days in a bid to highlight the case of Shaker Aamer - the last UK resident being held at Guantanamo Bay. The Scottish comedian has joined campaigners who are attempting to fast for a combined total of one thousand hours. Aamer, from London, has been detained in the military prison for eleven years without being either charged or tried. Since February, one hundred of the one hundred and sixty six prisoners still held to Guantanamo have been refusing food in protest at their detention. Human rights campaigners Reprieve are supporting the hunger-strikers by encouraging supporters to give up food temporarily. Clive Stafford-Smith, a lawyer and the charity's legal director, is one of those fasting. 'Frankie's action is more important than mine,' he wrote. He added that he wanted the 'symbolic' campaign to 'provoke debate' and pressure US President Barack Obama to make good on his promise to close the camp. Boyle, normally known for his acerbic and often controversial brand of humour, told his Twitter followers that he was on the fourth day of his 'hunger strike.' On Thursday he tweeted: 'Day two of hunger strike feels a bit like being drunk. Feel pretty good, but no doubt I'll wake up to find myself in bathroom eating soap.' He has also been promoting Reprieve and publishing links to campaign sites calling for Aamer to be freed. The forty seven-year-old, whose wife and children still live in South-West London, has been cleared for release. He told the BBC in May he was losing his mind, health and life in Guantanamo - the military prison used by the United States to detain al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners since 2002. American authorities said he led a unit of Taliban fighters against NATO troops and had met Osama Bin Laden. But Aamer has always said he was in Afghanistan with his family 'doing charity work.' At least fourteen British nationals and residents were held at Guantanamo Bay at one time, with Binyam Mohamed's release in 2009 leaving only Aamer there. The UK government has claimed that it is continuing to press the US to get him released.

On 8 November 2002, following the opening day of that year's Ashes series, the Sydney Daily Telegraph newspaper infamously featured a banner headline which asked: Is there ANYBODY in England who can play cricket? A decade on from such crass rank Antipodean gloating and one wonders, given the events at Lord's this week, whether tomorrow's front page of the same organ of the media shouldn't be asking the self-same question but this time replacing the word 'England' with the word 'Australia'. Because, frankly, there doesn't seem to be much evidence of this at the moment. When yer actual Sir Ian Botham made his pre-series prediction of a five-nil England whitewash, the response of his friend and former Ashes adversary Allan Border was as eye-watering as it was unequivocal. 'If England beat Australia five-nil' announced Border who led his countrymen to three successive Ashes wins, 'I'll piggyback Beefy round Piccadilly Circus.' One hopes for his sake that Border his very self has started training for heavy-lifting because Joe Root's first Ashes century has shortened the odds against such an outcome significantly. Root scored a masterful unbeaten one hundred and seventy eight to put England in total control in the second Ashes test at Lord's. The Yorkshire batsman batted throughout the third day as England lost but two wickets to close on three hundred and thirty three for five, a lead of five hundred and fifty six as they ground Australia's tired bowlers into the dirt and went 'cock-a-doodle-doo' all over their heads. The day before, remember, sixteen wickets had fallen. At twenty two years and two hundred and two days, Root became England's youngest Ashes centurion at Lord's and shared partnerships of ninety nine with Tim Bresnan and one hundred and fifty three with Ian Bell, who made a cheerfully brisk seventy four. On another truly miserable day for the tourists, who were bowled out for one hundred and twenty eight on Friday to concede a two hundred and thirty three-run first-innings lead, Bell was controversially given not out on three by third umpire Tony Hill despite appearing to be caught just above the ground by Steve Smith. He took full advantage of this, unfurling some sublime shots after tea and marching towards his third consecutive century of the series, before dragging a dreadful long-hop from Smith straight to midwicket. Root's mature and composed innings was a timely reminder of his talent and ends the debate over his promotion to the top of the order at Nick Compton's expense. Root, who scored his maiden test century against New Zealand in May batting at number five, had only mustered forty one runs in three previous innings in the series. But, having had a lucky escape on eight on Friday evening when he edged between wicket-keeper and slip, he struck the first ball of the day through midwicket for four and looked untroubled thereafter. He took one hundred and twenty two balls to reach his fifty, another one hundred and twenty five to complete a century, but only sixty four more to reach one hundred and fifty as he and Bell laid into the Australian attack like a pair of kick-ass mothers and carried England's lead beyond five hundred to suck any remaining morale out of the Aussies. Which was, of course, funny. With England's lead already one hundred and forty eight runs in excess of the highest successful fourth-innings chase in test history, Alastair Cook must decide whether to declare overnight and give himself two full days to bowl Australia out, or to continue batting in order to further wear down the pitch and piss on the Aussies from a great height. This blooger is guessing it'll be the latter and Root, Johnny Bairstow and Matt Prior will be given maybe forty minutes to an hour to smash some more runs before the declaration comes. Either way, with spinner Graeme Swann looking to add to his first-innings five-wicket haul on a pitch turning substantially, England appear all but certain to take a two-nil lead in the five-match series and establish themselves as overwhelming favourites to retain the Ashes. Australia began the day knowing they needed to pick up where they left off on Friday, when three quick Peter Siddle wickets had given them some small hope of fighting their way back into the game. They found stubborn resistance, however, as Root and Bresnan carefully consolidated England's overall position of strength during only the third wicketless session of the series. Bresnan had advanced to thirty eight, with four fours, when he pulled James Pattinson to midwicket to give Australia their first wicket of the day. And when Bell appeared to be caught by Smith at gully after fending off a rising delivery from Ryan Harris, Australia thought they had a second. Bell shrugged to suggest he was unsure whether the catch was clean, and the on-field umpires referred the decision to Hill, who ruled that there was insufficient evidence to give the batsman out. Australia's players made their frustrations clear to the officials. Bell, who scored one hundred and nine in both the second innings at Trent Bridge and first at Lord's, showed no remorse as he cut, drove and swept his way to a thirty sixth test fifty. He and Root scored one hundred and nine in seventeen overs either side of tea as England took advantage of some distinctly average bowling with the old ball. Bell was clearly frustrated after picking out Chris Rogers to deny himself another hundred, but the day belonged to Root, who signed off in style by launching Smith for two sixes in three balls. Knowing how yer man Botham feels about the indignities heaped on England by Australia for the eighteen long years between 19887 and 2005, if Alastair Cook's side does go on to make his whitewash forecast come true, he might just hold his old mate Border to his, possibly unwise, promise.

And it just gets worse and worse for Cricket Australia who are investigating how a tweet containing expletives was sent from its official account during the day. The message came after the decision by television umpire Tony Hill not to give Ian Bell out. 'We are looking into it,' a Cricket Australia spokesman told BBC Sport. 'We don't know how it happened.' One minute before the offensive tweet, a tweet had been posted from the account, updating followers on the score. On the Bell decision, a further tweet read: 'What has happened there? Smith takes a low catch at gully. Bell stands there. Umpires review. Looks out. Guess not.' The account remains operational and further score updates have been added since the offensive tweet was deleted. About twenty five minutes after the message was posted, Cricket Australia tweeted a grovelling apology, saying: 'Apologies for the inappropriate tweet earlier regarding the Bell catch. It didn't emanate from CA's official Twitter presence at Lord's.' A spokesman claimed that 'several employees' in Australia had access to the account and were 'in charge of posting updates.' With the game - and potentially the series - rapidly slipping away from Australia, Bell cut Ryan Harris and was taken low by Smith. Bell, as was his right, stood his ground as he was unsure whether the catch was clean, and waited for the on-field umpire's decision. He referred the decision to Hill. After a short delay, and despite replays appearing to show Smith's fingers were under the ball, Hill ruled that there was 'insufficient evidence' to give Bell out. 'That's a bad decision,' said former England opener Geoffrey Boycott on BBC Test Match Special. 'I bet I could go along the corridor to all the ex-players working on the game and most of them will say out; we just know from experience. That's not technology; it's human error.' The incident was the latest in a series blighted by umpiring controversies. In the first Test at Trent Bridge, which England won by fourteen runs, Australian debutant Ashton Agar survived a debatable stumping on six before going on to make ninety eight.

Meanwhile, as a young cricketer from Yorkshire was thrilling the crowd at Lord's, the thoughts of some of the cricketing world briefly recalled the exploits - and the horribly untimely fate - of one of his celebrated county predecessors. Hedley Verity was accustomed to the manicured turf of Headingley and Lord's but, in 1943 he was leading his troops in action against the German army in Sicily. Shells were exploding overhead, illuminating the night sky. Artillery fire rained in from all angles, making the dusty ground fizz and spit venomously. And the burning trees and crops surrounding Verity's battalion made them feel both trapped and exposed. Captain Verity, thirty eight years old and suffering from the debilitating effects of dysentery, remained at the front of his men. He ordered one of his platoons to a distant farmhouse and told the other to give them cover. Almost as soon as he uttered the words, Hedley was hit in the chest by a piece of shrapnel and slumped to the ground. Yet he still implored his men to 'keep going.' Hedley died on 31 July 1943, almost exactly seventy years before Joe Root's golden day at Lord's. He was the most illustrious of the five England Test cricketers to be killed in action during the conflict. The proud Yorkshireman is regarded as one of the most effective slow left-arm bowlers in the history of cricket, having taken an astonishing nineteen hundred and fifty six first-class wickets at an average of just 14.90, inspiring Yorkshire to seven County Championships during the 1930s. The highlight of his domestic career was ten wickets for ten runs against Nottinghamshire in a championship match in 1932, which remains a record today, and one that is unlikely ever to be beaten. Hedley played in four Ashes series, including the infamous Bodyline tour of Australia in 1932-33, which England won 4-1. The second test of the 1934 series has become known as 'Verity's match', after he took fifteen for one hundred and four, including fourteen wickets in a day and the scalp of the great Don Bradman in both innings. Before Graeme Swann achieved the feat against Australia on Friday, he was the last England spinner to take five wickets in an Ashes test at Lord's. His test record is one hundred and forty four wickets in forty matches at an average of 24.37 and he took Bradman's wicket more times than any other test bowler - eight times in seventeen Tests. The legendary Australian actually wrote the foreword to Alan Hill's biography Hedley Verity: Portrait of a Cricketer, which was published in 1986 and remains the definitive account of the bowler and his life. Bradman wrote: 'We were great rivals and I grew to respect him both as a gentleman and a player. His ideal physique and lovely economical lazy run-up were co-ordinated to put him in a perfect delivery position, with a superb command of length and direction. But more than his cricketing skill was his sportsmanship and manly bearing under all circumstances. I never once heard him complain or offer a criticism. His whole career exemplified all that was best about cricket and I deem it an honour and privilege to have been on stage with him in those golden days of the 1930s.' The former Yorkshire and England captain Brian Close said that Verity has long been revered at Headingley, the ground he was born within yards of, where there is a plaque bearing his name next to The Hutton Gates. 'I was only eight when the Second World War broke out,' Close said, 'so I never saw Hedley Verity play. But I looked up the records and heard others talk about him and soon realised what a great bowler he had been. Before the War, Yorkshire had a great side and Hedley Verity was clearly a key part of it.' Hedley's last first-class match was against Sussex at Hove in September 1939, when he took seven wickets for nine runs to bowl Sussex out for thirty three in their second innings. After that, the County Championship was postponed because of the war, although Yorkshire had already done enough to claim their seventh title of the 1930s. Hedley joined the army soon afterwards and was posted to the first battalion of The Green Howards, along with fellow Yorkshire players Len Hutton, Herbert Sutcliffe, Maurice Leyland and Arthur Wood. It was little wonder that Verity claimed: 'I reckon we can put out a team to beat any county side in England.' He quickly rose to the rank of captain and was posted in Northern Ireland, India - where he contracted dysentery - and Egypt, before arriving in Sicily for the assault on Catania in July 1943. There were plans to withdraw him from service after the Sicily campaign, with Lieutenant General Miles Dempsey saying 'in a matter of a week or so he would have been safe and able to play for Yorkshire again after the war,' but the chance never arose. During the battle, Hedley was struck in the chest and his second in command, Laurie Hesmondhalgh, was killed. Several of the battalion were captured by the Germans and the next day Hedley's batman, private Tom Rennoldson, was allowed to go and look for his captain. He found Hedley and was able to carry him to a field hospital, where an emergency operation was carried out in the afternoon. Then, in sweltering, overcrowded conditions, he was ferried in an open railway truck across the straits of Messina to Reggio in Italy. Hedley, by now exhausted and in very bad health, reached Naples on 26 July and was taken to a military hospital in Caserta. There he was recognised by another injured Yorkshireman, medical orderly Corporal Henty from Leeds. 'I asked his name as he lay on the stretcher and when he gave it I remarked "are you the Yorkshire cricketer?"' Henty said in Hill's biography. 'He replied "yes, that's me." Hedley Verity was a name to conjure with and I was anxious to see everything was done to make him comfortable. The captain then showed me a picture of his wife and two sons. It was very touching and he was clearly very proud of them.' Three days later, Hedley underwent an operation to remove part of a rib that was pressing on his lung - under only a local anaesthetic. Yet he suffered a series of haemorrhages. which couldn't be stemmed, and died on the afternoon of 31 July. The Italians gave him full military honours at his funeral, with officers at Caserta acting as bearers and the coffin itself being draped in a union flag. Back home, his wife Kathleen and sons Douglas and Wilfred knew nothing of his demise for several weeks. Hedley's former England captain, Douglas Jardine, wrote them a letter which said: 'I hope you will soon have better news of the cricketer and man I most admired.' News eventually arrived on the morning of 1 September, exactly four years to the day since Hedley had last played for his beloved Yorkshire. His sister, Grace, remembered receiving the news and the effect it had on her father, who had been so close to his only son. 'I shall never forget the sight of father's face when he received the news of Hedley's death,' she said. Jardine played in a memorial match for Hedley at Roundhay Park in Leeds in 1948. 'I venture to doubt whether any other bowler of his type has proved such a master on all wickets,' he said in a speech to the assembled players and spectators. When Len Hutton led his England side to Australia for the 1954-55 Ashes series, the liner carrying them on their epic journey stopped in Italy in order for the team to pay their respects to Hedley. The players laid a wreath, a single white rose and a Yorkshire scarf at his grave. Hedley was one of five England cricketers who were killed during World War II. The others were Ken Farnes, the fast bowler who played fifteen Tests, who died in October 1941 when his plane crashed on night-flying exercise near Chipping Warden; Geoffrey Legge the former Kent captain and batsman who played five Tests. He died in flying accident in Devon in November 1940; George Macaulay, the medium pace bowler who took a wicket with the first ball of his eight Test matches who died of illness on active service in December 1940 and Maurice Turnbull the Glamorgan spinner who is only person to have played international cricket for England and rugby for Wales. Maurice died in August 1944 after being hit by sniper in fighting after Normandy landings.

The Aussies might not have been smiling, but there was plenty of laughter on the outfield at Lord's before the start of the third day's play on Saturday. As part of the Sky Sports' extensive coverage of the build up, Ian Ward, Shane Warne, Andrew Struass and Nasser Hussain were attempting to show viewers how to take a catch at short-leg as part of a 'Fielding Masterclass'. Let's just say, these days, old Nasser - a fine short-leg in his day - is not exactly in Ian Bell's league. Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott and England's bowling coach David Saker were observed finding it all very amusing from the home dressing room balcony.
Playing for Luckett Cricket Club in Division Two East of the Cornwall Cricket Leagues does not ordinarily lead to interview requests from BBC Sport or offers of free gear from equipment manufacturers. But batsman Andrew Brenton's display for Luckett against Tideford last weekend was no ordinary performance. The thirty nine-year-old's record-breaking innings - three hundred and eleven runs scored off just forty overs, including fifty three boundaries and eleven sixes - has led to a flurry of publicity and interest, with the BBC Sport website story on his feat recording more than two hundred thousand page views from around the world since Tuesday. 'It's all been a bit mad,' the understated Brenton told BBC South West Sport over a pint in the same pub in which the team drink after every home game. 'I've been getting texts from everyone and my son said he'd seen a story about it on a website in New Zealand. I haven't been too keen to make a big deal about it. But now I think about it, it will be nice to have the record for however long it stands and for my son to look at the stories about it all, and hopefully it will do something for Luckett as a club.' Reliving the innings that has made him - in his own words - 'famous for fifteen minutes,' Brenton said that he knew the baking conditions meant a big total was potentially on the cards. 'It was just a perfect day to bat,' he said. Unless you were an Australian test cricketer, of course, in that case, you'd be all out for under one hundred and fifty. 'I was praying that we'd win the toss. Everyone knew it would be a hard day for the bowlers and the fielders,' Andrew continued. Opener Gregg Sleep went for three in the fourth over, bringing Brenton to the crease at Chapel Field. 'He reckons he saw off the new ball to make things easier for me,' said Andrew, whose previous best score was one hundred and forty. 'I just wanted to stay in and play cricket shots. We get so used to playing on damp wickets so when you get a day like Saturday you just want to make the most of it. The ball was coming on and you could see it wasn't going to do a lot. I'd been getting annoyed this season. I kept getting to fifty or sixty and then getting out so when the boundaries started to come I was really on at myself to keep concentrating.' Nevertheless Brenton said that he did give a few chances, towards the start and the end of the innings, but managed to survive. 'The banter was really good-natured - I was chatting with the wicket-keeper almost the whole innings,' he said. His Luckett colleague David Brown had high praise for his long-time team-mate. 'He's our Ian Botham,' said Brown. 'The younger lads at the club all look up to him. I don't think he realises how good he is - I've been telling him for ten years! Guys at our level just aren't used to dealing with how hard he hits the ball.' Brenton has been fielding calls from journalists and radio stations, and even from equipment manufacturers to offer him a new helmet. 'It's not just about me - Jack Sleep did a fantastic job for his century and our partnership was a record too,' said Brenton, who cites - perhaps unsurprisingly - Sir Viv Richards as his cricketing hero. 'And there's people there like Len Roberts, the president of the club who's about eighty but still does tireless work preparing the ground and everything, I think it's nice for people like him to see the club get all this attention.'

Chris Froome is set to win the one hundredth Tour De France after finishing third on the penultimate stage. Froome, twenty eight, leads by over five minutes and will not be challenged on Sunday's traditional procession into Paris. 'I can't quite believe I'm sitting here in this position,' said Froome. 'It really is amazing. I'm a bit lost for words. I've still got to roll into Paris but this is the GC [General Classification] sorted out. To finish it off like this is special.' The Kenya-born rider added: 'It was quite hard to stay on top once I got to three kilometres to go because I knew I had accomplished what I wanted to do. I was overwhelmed.' Team Sky's Froome stayed on the wheel of closest competitors Nairo Quintana and Joaquim Rodriguez as they climbed to the summit of Mont Semnoz. Quintana jumped clear late on to win and secure second place overall, with Alberto Contador falling to fourth. Spain's Contador, who started the day behind Froome, cracked on the final climb to drop off the podium in Paris. Froome will become the second successive British winner when he crosses the line on the Champs Elysees following Sir Bradley Wiggins's memorable victory twelve months ago. Froome has led since stage eight and finished the twentieth stage, from Annecy to Annecy-Semnoz on Saturday, with a lead of five minutes three seconds in the general classification. Jens Voigt, the oldest competitor in the race, led a breakaway but was caught on the final hors categorie - the hardest rating - climb. Quintana's first ever stage win also secured the Colombian the polka dot jersey for The King of the Mountains to go with his white jersey for the best-placed rider under twenty five. Peter Sagan, from Slovakia, took an an unassailable lead in the points classification with victory in the intermediate sprint to deny Mark Cavendish a chance of winning the green jersey. But the Manxman will be aiming for victory as the tour concludes at sunset on Sunday in Paris as he bids to become the first rider to win the final stage on five occasions. Cavendish, who has won the last four successive sprint finishes on the Champs Elysees, currently shares the record with the legendary Belgian Eddy Merckx.

Griff Rhys Jones has led the tributes to his long-time comedy partner Mel Smith who has died from a heart attack at the age of sixty. The pair were most famous for Not The Nine O'Clock News (in which they starred with Rowen Atkinson and Pamela Stephenson) and the subsequent Alas Smith and Jones. Griff, who had been friends with Mel for thirty five years, said that the comedian was 'a force for life' to everybody who met him, adding he was 'a gentleman and a scholar, a gambler and a wit.' He also said: 'I still can't believe this has happened. We are all in a state of shock. We have lost a very, very dear friend. He inspired love and utter loyalty and he gave it in return. I will look back on the days working with him as some of the funniest times that I have ever spent.' Colleagues and fans have described Mel as one of the most gifted and influential comics of his generation, paving the way for a new style of comedy in the early-1980s. The son of a greengrocer-turned-bookmaker from Chiswick, Mel grew up in a flat above a fish and chip shop. He was, according to legend, already directing plays with his friends at the age of six. He went on to read experimental psychology at New College, Oxford, where he was involved with the dramatic society with whom he appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe. The society shared a venue with the Cambridge Footlights, where Smith was spotted by its producer John Lloyd, who went on to cast him in Not The Nine O’Clock News as a writer/performer, initially on a fee of a hundred smackers per episode. Mel had already begun his career as a theatre-director at some of the country's most established venues, but it was in Not The Nine O'Clock News, which ran for four extraordinary series from 1979 to 1982, that he made his name. A sketch show shown as a satricial comedy alternative to the Nine O'Clock News on BBC1, it featured sketches poking fun at current news stories and popular culture, as well as (often brilliant) parody songs, re-edited news footage and spoof television formats. It was to become the template for just about every successful British comedy sketch show made since. The series featured Smith, Atkinson, Stephenson and Chris Langham in the first series, with Jones (who appeared in a handful of first series sketches) joining as a regular - and a replacement for Langham - from series two (1980). The format was a deliberate departure from the Monty Python's Flying Circus school of stream-of-consciousness comedy, returning to a more conventional sketch show format but with a significantly hacksaw satirical bite. For a generation of young Britons - this blogger included - it was our Python. Which it even had the cheek to parody and get away with it!. After NT9O'CN ended, the success continued with Alas Smith and Jones which was one of the most popular sketch shows in the 1980s and one that featured one of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite ever TV comedy sketches, written by his old mucker, Mark Cullen. Alas won an EMMY Award and The British Comedy Award for top entertainment series. Mel and Griff also co-founded Talkback, which grew to be one of the UK's largest producers of TV comedy and light entertainment programming. Mel, who died at his home in North London, also directed the movies The Tall Guy in 1989 and Bean in 1997 and starred in films including The Princess Bride, Brain Donors and Wilt (the latter alongside Jones in 1989). A very under-rated serious actor, he was superb in the 1982 Channel Four property drama Muck & Brass. In 1989, he starred in the title role of the sitcom Colin's Sandwich - another particular favourite of this blogger - playing a British Rail employee with aspirations to be a writer. Two years earlier, he recorded a single with Kim Wilde for Comic Relief, 'Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree' with some extra comedy lines written by Smith and Jones. It reached number three in the UK charts. Mel appeared to great acclaim as Winston Churchill at the 2006 Edinburgh Fringe festival in Allegiance, a play by the Irish journalist and author Mary Kenny about Churchill's meeting with the Irish nationalist leader Michael Collins in 1921. Smith had suffered from poor health in recent years, but confessed to being unable to stop working. Mel was hospitalised in 1999 with stomach ulcers, after admitting that he was consuming more than fifty Nurofen Plus tablets a day. Smith said at the time that the pressures of work were a contributing factor to his addiction, along with a desperate need to ease the pain caused by gout. Partly as a result, he agreed to sell Talkback Productions, but Mel admitted to restlessness: 'I said to my wife that I needed to do something to get me out of the house.' In December 2008 he appeared on Celebrity Mastermind, despite suffering from severe pharyngitis, an inflammation of the throat. Friends and colleagues have also been paying their respects. Not The Nine O'Clock News producer John Lloyd said that Smith was an 'amazingly talented guy' but added that he had not been in good health. He said: 'We did know he's been ill for some time. It's a tragedy, it's a great loss not just as an amazingly talented guy in all sorts of areas but also as a friend. I think he was not in good shape, so in some ways we try and put a good spin on it by saying it's a relief for him.' Rowan Atkinson said he was 'truly sad' to hear about Mel's death. Atkinson said: 'He had a wonderfully generous and sympathetic presence both on and off-screen.' Stephen Fry tweeted: 'Terrible news about my old friend Mel Smith, dead today from a heart attack. Mel lived a full life, but was kind, funny and wonderful to know.' Mel was described as having 'extraordinary natural talent' by Peter Fincham, director of television at ITV. Fincham, who was the business partner of Smith and Jones at Talkback Productions as well as their agent, said: 'Life was always exciting around Mel. He was my friend and business partner for many years and had extraordinary natural talent with the rare gift of wearing it lightly. Being funny came naturally to him, so much so that he never seemed to give it a second thought. Mel and Griff were one of the great comedy acts and it's hard to imagine that one of them is no longer with us.' Tony Hall, the BBC's director general, said: 'Mel Smith's contribution to British comedy cannot be overstated. On-screen he helped to define a new style of comedy from the late-1970s that continues to influence people to this day.' Danny Cohen, the BBC's director of television, said: 'Mel was one of the comedy greats of the modern era. He brought huge pleasure to audiences through both his performances and his writing. Many of today's most celebrated comedians will have grown up learning from Mel Smith.' Mel is survived by his wife, Pam.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self is, of course, very saddened to hear of the death of one of his first comedy heroes. So, for today's Keith Telly Topping 45 of the Day, here's Mel Smith's finest two minutes. Or, because this is an edited version from a NT9O'CN compilation show, one minute and nine seconds! Thanks for all the laughs, Mel.

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