Monday, February 28, 2011

Jump On Board, Take A Ride, Yeah!

[spooks]'s Peter Firth has spoken about the popular BBC1 espionage drama's upcoming tenth series, noting that 'the bar’s quite high, but we can jump.' Interviewed to promote next week's series nine DVD release, Firth commented: 'We start [filming] very soon and that will air in the Autumn of this year, probably early October. And I can tell you ... virtually nothing! It's always been the case that the producers have kept their cards very close to their chest, so they're not really including me as yet in what the storyline's going to be.' He continued: 'The show's improved year-on-year, culminating in last year which is widely perceived as the best year series that we've done.' Asked about possible plots for series ten, Firth joked: 'We've run out of storylines, that's the truth! We've covered every radical group in the world, virtually.' He added: 'We have a gifted and talented team of writers who have the ability to look at what might happen and then narrow that down to what will probably happen and then dramatise that. Frequently over the years we've been spot on with that and that's given us some kind of kudos that most programmes don't have.'

Was yer Keith Telly Topping out of his tiny mind on drugs (chance'd be a fine thing, frankly) or did the BBC's Sunday night staple Countryfile really use Peter Hook's opening bass-riff from Joy Division's 'Transmission' as background music during a report about the sixtieth anniversary of The Archers? Isn't television odd, dear blog reader?

On Saturday 26 February, the overnight ratings for BBC1 was ahead of ITV for the entire day - with the exception of the fifteen minutes between 00:10 and 00:25! Among the BBC's big successes were Six Nations Rugby Union: England v France, watched by 7.32m viewers (with a peak of 9.56m at 18:40), Let's Dance for Comic Relief - 7.36m, The National Lottery: Secret Fortune - 5.93m, Casualty - 5.78m, BBC News - 5.22m and Match of the Day - 4.01m. On ITV Harry Hill's TV Burp could only manage 4.08m (with a further two hundred and twenty thousand viewers on ITV+1), Ant & Dec's Push the Button continued its thoroughly unimpressive second series with just a fraction over four million whilst the commercial broadcaster's highlight of the night was the mere 4.44m achieved by Take Me Out. Just for a bit of necessary context, that's the lowest rating for a new episode of TV Burp since 2008, I believe. It must have been something of a shock to ITV that a number of their biggest potential audience grabbers - Ant and Dec and Harry Hill - got such a spanking off Steve Jones, Alex Jones, Nick Knowles and a fifteen muddy men chucking an egg-shaped ball around.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite line from Sunday's series finale of Top Gear - When Prezza Met Jezza! - dear blog reader? Why, it just had to be Jeremy noting 'speed limits are like Herpes. Once you've got them, you'll never get rid of them!' The new series, according to Mr Clarkson, returns in June. The Gruniad Morning Star's whinging about some aspect of it or other will resume one day subsequently.

Director Paul McGuigan has confirmed that he will be working on the second series of the BBC's Sherlock, which begins filming later in the Spring. McGuigan directed last year's acclaimed episodes A Study In Pink and The Great Game and, more recently, has directed the opening part of ITV's new medical drama series Monroe. Writing on Twitter, he revealed: 'I'm only doing two episodes of Sherlock - the same as the last time. It's impossible to do all three even though I would love to!' Earlier this month, the show's co-creator and writer Mark Gatiss tweeted: 'For those kindly asking, we start shooting the new series of Sherlock in May and will be back on TV in the Autumn.' Sherlock was recommissioned last August, with Gatiss and Steven Moffat teasing: 'There'll be baffling new puzzles, old friends and new enemies - whether on two or four legs. And we might well be seeing the cold master of logic and reason unexpectedly falling. But in love? Or over a precipice? Who can tell?' So, that's Hound of the Bakservilles, A Scandal in Bohemia and The Final Problem, then?! Next ...

Ministers are determined to ensure that the BBC reveals which presenters are paid the most amid growing quite disgraceful Tory scum 'dismay' at the delay in releasing salary bands showing much it pays its talent according to a particularly spiteful and ignorant piece of invective in the Sunday Torygraph. BBC executives were first told to publish the earnings 'of top names such as Anne Robinson and Jeremy Paxman in June last year,' when Sir Michael Lyons, the chairman of the Trust, said it needed to be more transparent. However, the Torygraph says that it has 'learnt' (how many times? It's 'learned', gentlemen. Didn't any of you go to school?) that 'senior figures' at the corporation are determined not to be bounced into releasing the details of individuals’ pay and the BBC has admitted it has serious reservations over the move. Their stance is likely to be one of the first areas of conflict with Lord Patten, the 'preferred candidate' for BBC Trust chairman whom the Government hope will be a nice little lap-dog for them and will be 'more robust' in 'holding BBC bosses to account.' See what I mean. Scum. A 'senior Government source' told the Torygraph that Patten and the lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious Hunt, would 'press for full transparency over stars' pay.' They can press all they like but I trust that the BBC will tell them to take their 'pressing' and go and stick it somewhere that'll hurt.

Doctor Who's showrunner Steven Moffat has described the actor Nicholas Courtney, who died earlier this week, as 'kind and generous and funny.' Courtney was best known for his role as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart in Doctor Who, most recently playing the character in a two-part story of The Sarah Jane Adventures in December 2008. Moffat wrote on the show's official website: 'I only met Nicholas Courtney once and very briefly - but he was as kind and generous and funny as his reputation suggests.' He continued: 'And on screen, his perfectly pitched performance as the Brigadier carved a very special place in the history of Doctor Who. Not just because he could be grave and funny at the same time, and wise and silly in the same moment, and not just because you could still love him when he was clearly in the wrong, or because he could point a gun at you and still somehow twinkle - but because out of all the people the Doctor has met, in all of space and time, Nicholas Courtney's Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart was the only one who was ever his boss.' He added: 'Somewhere out there, the Doctor just got a little lonelier.'

Meanwhile, Sheridan Smith is reportedly 'desperate' to land a role in Doctor Who. The Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps and Jonathan Creek actress admits that it's her 'dream' to appear alongside leading man Matt Smith in the BBC1 family drama, and fight the Daleks. She said: 'It's every actress' dream to be the new assistant - fighting the Daleks. I'd kick their arse.' Meanwhile, Matt himself has promised that the new series will feature 'one of the greatest monsters in the history' of the show. If it's Sheridan Smith in her fetish gear outfit from Grownups (see right), then I think you might just be correct in that assertion, Matthew. He told BANG Showbiz: 'I do think we've got one of the greatest monsters, especially during my tenure on the show, but I think in the history of it, it's a real cracker. We've also got some great guests stars. We've got Lily Cole, Hugh Bonneville, David Walliams, so it's really exciting.' And James Corden. Yeah. it was all looking so good up to that point! Elsewhere, the time-travelling Time Lord and his faithful chums Amy and Rory are going to be faced with some 'seismic choices' about their triangular relationship, which could rock the foundations of their friendship. Matt added: 'The Doctor and Amy are going to be faced with some really harrowing and seismic choices about who they are, and why they are important together.'

ITV is set to report on Wednesday that pre-tax profits almost tripled in 2010 thanks to a resurgent TV advertising market, with the cash-rich broadcaster expected to announce its intention to reinstate a dividend this year. Analysts forecast that ITV will report pre-tax profits of about three hundred million smackers, on the back of a sixteen per cent surge in advertising revenues thanks to shows such as Downton Abbey, The X Factor and the World Cup. It is expected to report that advertising in the first quarter of 2011 is up ten per cent. While there is an expectation that ad revenues could be up as much as twenty per cent in April, thanks to a combination of the royal wedding and Easter, ITV will warn on tougher year-on-year comparatives from May onwards. The company's strong position – net debt will have more than halved to about three hundred million quid, with forecasts that it could be wiped out altogether by the year's end, and more than seven hundred million pounds in the bank – has led to speculation over how it might use its financial muscle. Possibilities include acquiring a production company to bolster its under performing in-house production business, ITV Studios, which produces shows such as Emmerdale and Coronation Street. Possible 'big ticket' targets include Midsomer Murders maker All3Media and Big Brother company Endemol. ITV may also increase its investment in programming, with its over dependence on Simon Cowell, who is attempting to split his focus between commitments in the US and UK, said to be 'becoming an issue.' ITV's online business is expected to report revenues of twenty million wonga, two per cent of revenues, with management yet to announce a plan for the operation to achieve its target of substantially increasing digital revenues. A general improvement in the market is also thought to have significantly benefited ITV's pension deficit, which stood at four hundred and forty nine million pounds.

Sarah Parish has revealed how she got 'up close and personal' watching open heart surgery in preparation for her role as a cardiac surgeon in ITV's new medical drama Monroe. She told the ITV Press Centre: 'I know a heart surgeon in Southampton, so I called him as soon as I got the job and he invited me to come and watch a couple of operations. I figured I would be at the back of the room but I was right at the head of the patient where the anaesthetist stands.' She continued: 'It was the most awe-inspiring experience. I felt very privileged to be there watching the medical team perform an incredible job. They were so calm, I’d imagined it to be a very tense atmosphere but it’s not at all. It’s like a beautifully choreographed ballet and before you know it four hours have passed and you've been standing in the same spot the whole time.' Written and created by Peter Bowker (Occupation, Desperate Romantics, Eric & Ernie), the six-part series also stars James Nesbitt and Tom Riley. Discussing her character, Jenny Bremner, Parish admitted: 'I tend to get cast a lot as strong women and Bremner is very much the strongest of them all, there's no doubt about that! To play someone that is so supremely confident is quite refreshing.'

Since his film career fizzled out, Michael Winner has become most renowned for his 'calm down dear' advertising catchphrase. And for a thoroughly wretched series called Dining Stars he fronted for ITV last year which was a ratings fiasco. But maybe he should have taken his own advice after becoming involved in a Twitter argument with writer and TV presenter Victoria Coren. Winner apparently called Victoria 'rude beyond belief' after she dared to make a late-night phone call to him following a series of bizarre Twitter posts in Winner's name in which he discussed the fulsomeness of her breasts. Victoria says that she initially assumed Winner's Twitter account had been hijacked by an adolescent. However, the former film director, has insisted that the tweets about Coren's firm and lovely bosoms were indeed his. He has a Twitter biography which reads 'I am a totally insane film director, writer, producer, silk shirt cleaner, bad tempered, totally ridiculous example of humanity in deep shit.' Yeah. Okay. But do you have to inflict all of that on the unwary? The seventy five-year-old had begun tweeting about Only Connect presenter Victoria last on Monday and referred to her 'knockers' before upsetting her brother Giles with a reference to their late father, the humorist Alan Coren. Broadcaster and food writer Giles replied to Winner: 'Why are you badmouthing my family? Why are you insulting my dead father? And when did I "stab you in the back?"' Winner's tweets about Victoria continued over the next day, leading her to remark that she was 'tweechless with amazement' over his continued references to her fun bags. In her regular - excellent - column in the Osberver, (wittily entitled Got To Get This Off My Chest) Victoria explained that she had presumed the tweets about her cleavage were from an impostor. 'He only had six thousand followers and the tweets were so weird and misspelt, I thought they were satirical,' she added. 'The stuff about my breasts was just pitiful and silly. But he made a rude remark about my father, who isn't here anymore, and that's not okay. That's the only thing that made me really angry.' Victoria had the last word in the matter though, and applauded Winner for his willingness to take on Twitter at his age. 'Firing off twenty tweets about my breasts in ten minutes is something you'd expect from a fourteen-year-old having his first can of cider,' she remarked. 'Of course, I felt embarrassed and sad. I can bluster my way through a comedy feud, but I'm not a stripper who confidently offers her assets for appraisal. I'm a writer, with an imperfect, private body. It was embarrassing to have a thousand people sharing public opinions about my chest. Winner tweeted merrily with a fan who wrote: "That's Victoria Coren's tits sorted. Piers Morgan should be our next victim." So nasty and yet so ludicrous. A Twitter spat with Michael Winner? Who could take it seriously? I'm a grown-up girl, I've heard worse. Far worse – I've played poker with John McCririck. But what about the women who aren't pre-gruelled by years in a macho gambling underworld? How does Michael Winner treat a nervous twenty three-year-old waitress when he's showing off in The Ivy? What does he say about the daughters of his friends? And these critical men who rush to defend the principle of dirty personal remarks; how do they behave around girls who are more timid, less articulate, less battle-weary than I am? I didn't think Gray and Keys should be fired. I think free speech is all and humour is the best defence. But I do wish some people found it easier to understand what's funny and what isn't.'

Cheryl Cole will reportedly not serve as a judge on the upcoming US version of The X Factor. What a shame. According to the Daily Lies, the singer has been 'snubbed' by FOX bosses over concerns about her 'thick' Geordie accent and lack of profile stateside. Never mind, pet, ye come back yerm with us thick Geordies, we divvent care how y'taak, like. Friends close to Cole have claimed that the twenty seven-year-old will now fill 'the Sinitta role,' advising head judge and executive producer Simon Cowell in the latter stages of the competition. A 'source' allegedly said: 'Simon really wanted Cheryl on the panel with him but it's been an unwinnable battle. People just don't know who she is over there and struggle to understand what she's saying. Simon is consoling her with the offer of helping him win the first series, which would give her profile a massive boost. The fact is, she's got a decision to make.' Cole was thought to have been working with an Los Angeles voice-coach in order to quell fears about her regional twang, but the publication claims that Cowell has simply been unable to win over unconvinced network chiefs. 'Simon Cowell is still one of her biggest supporters,' the 'insider' claimed. 'But even though the X Factor is his idea, it's the executives at FOX who have the ultimate say over the make-up of the show.' They added: 'Cheryl hasn't heard or seen him since she arrived.' Oh dear. How sad. Anyway ...

Andrew Davies, who has adapted classic novels from Pride and Prejudice to Little Dorrit for the small screen, said that viewers want to see 'intelligent drama' on BBC1 and ITV. Presumably, he's asked all of them. Although, interersting, I don't remember getting that questionaire personally. 'TV audiences are getting older, which is as it should be,' said Davies in an interview with the Daily Torygraph. 'When you are eighteen to thirty, you shouldn't be sitting in on a Sunday night watching a costume drama, you should be out at clubs, picking one another up. So why shouldn't older viewers be allowed to watch what we know they like?' The opening episode of Davies's new period adaptation, of Winifred Holtby's novel South Riding, proved a hit for BBC1 last Sunday, picking up nearly seven million viewers against stiff competition from ITV's Twatting About on Ice and Wild at Heart. Davies added that 'you need money, love and conflict between the sexes for something big and popular in TV drama.' He is renowned for the sauciness of some of his adaptations, including the wet shirt scene featuring Colin Firth in his BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. He said that Downton Abbey, ITV's period drama hit from last autumn, pointed the way to more 'ambitious' TV drama projects. 'I found it very satisfying and it clearly reached a big cross-section of the audience,' said Davies. 'And while it was running, I was struck that over on the BBC there was nothing much with that sort of appeal. People in TV still think about BBC and ITV audiences as being very different, with ITV much more tabloid, but Downton Abbey went a fair way to disprove it. Hopefully they will be more ambitious again now in their commissioning.' Davies and the BBC had a public falling out in 2009 when the corporation's drama chief, Ben Stephenson, shelved two of Davies's adaptations, Charles Dickens's Dombey and Sons and Anthony Trollope's The Pallisers. Davies accused Stephenson of 'going downmarket' and only being interested in classic adaptations if they were 'popular warhorses.' Stephenson has also introduced more recent period dramas, such as Small Island, adapted from Andrea Levy's novel about Jamaican immigration to Britain in 1948. South Riding itself is set in 1934, and echoes modern Britain as it depicts fictional attempts to fight the depression. 'The 1930s is a decade not seen much on television,' said Davies. 'What I found particularly interesting about Holtby in the current climate was the bold and imaginative way she shows South Riding County Council spending its way out of recession with roads, schools and hospitals, rather as the Americans are doing right now, but the very opposite of the Coalition government.' The BBC recently announced that it had recommissioned its new version of Upstairs, Downstairs - also set in the Thirties - for a six-episode run next year. Actually, I dunno if you know this, dear blog reader, but there is, in fact a very big 1930s revival going on all over the country. Whole families trying to live on five quid a week. Davies added that it is 'a pity' TV only shows adaptations of the most popular books of some classic authors, with the result that 'There are warhorses that come round again and again. If only Jane Austen had written twenty novels.' But, she didn't. So, whaddya gonna do, you know?

Scotland Yard is to contest a lawsuit which could establish the true number of victims in the News of the World phone-hacking scandal. Mark Lewis, a solicitor who has acted for people suing the newspaper, contends that 'a senior figure' in the Metropolitan police, Detective Sergeant Mark Maberly, told him in 2008 that as many as six thousand phones may have been hacked. Lewis repeated this conversation when giving evidence to the culture, media and sport select committee inquiry into allegations of phone hacking by the newspaper and a private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire. The Met insists that Maberly, now a detective inspector, did not give Lewis the six thousand figure, or tell the solicitor he would give him 'enough rope to hang them' as Lewis maintains. The Met's denial prompted Lewis to launch a libel claim that the force will seek to strike out in court on Thursday and thus close down a line of inquiry that could reveal the extent of the evidence it holds relating to the scandal. 'This is about my reputation,' Lewis said. 'The police accused me of lying about my conversation.' To support his libel action, Lewis is demanding that the Met hand over documents taken from Mulcaire's office that could establish the number of phone-hacking victims. So far, only documents relating to the growing number of celebrities who have launched civil actions against the News of the World have been released. Lewis told the parliamentary select committee that, based on his conversation with Maberly, he had been led to believe 'they had found there were something like six thousand people who were involved. It was not clear to me whether that was six thousand phones that had been hacked or six thousand individual people including the people who had left messages.' Maberly's alleged comments to Lewis contrast starkly with statements made by other senior officers in the Metropolitan police. Andy Hayman, a former assistant commissioner at the Met, who led the original investigation, has said there were only 'a handful' of victims. John Yates, the acting commissioner who led a follow-up investigation, told the home affairs select committee that 'the voicemail pin codes of up to one hundred and twenty people were discovered.' In response to concerns that it failed to conduct a sufficiently thorough investigation into the News of the World's phone-hacking activities, the Met has launched a new inquiry conducted by deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers and involving forty five detectives. But MPs have called for an outside force to launch its own investigation. Earlier this month Paul Farrelly, a member of the culture and media committee, wrote to the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, to express his concerns about the Crown Prosecution Service's role in the affair. 'At every twist and turn, the CPS simply "rubber-stamped" the Metropolitan police's approach. The CPS' public statements, indeed, appeared to be a "cut and paste" of the police's stance,' Farrelly wrote. 'It is time not only for the Metropolitan police's conduct and approach to be independently reviewed, but the CPS's as well.' In his response, Starmer said a new review of the evidence collected by Scotland Yard, to be conducted by a senior CPS prosecutor, would be 'rigorous and robust.' In response to Lewis's libel action, a spokeswoman for the Met said: 'We can confirm that the Metropolitan Police Service is making an application to strike out the claim. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.'

Google is making a 'pretty big' change which will demote 'low-quality' or 'shallow' websites from online search engine results, in a move designed to tackle so-called 'content farms.' Ah well, that's anybody's chances of stumbling across From The North by accident gone for a Richard Burton, I reckon. Because, frankly, we here give low quality a bad name. The change, which will affect around twelve per cent of Google search queries - primarily in the US - follows pressure from the media industry and many of its users. Although Google did not specify which sites would be affected, the search engine has come under fire for allowing content farm sites like Demand Media – which produces thousands of articles a day based on popular search terms – to 'pollute' its results. 'This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites – sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful,' said Amit Singhal, a Google fellow, and Matt Cutts, head of the company's spam-fighting team, wrote in a blog post on Thursday. 'At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites — sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.' Nah, I'm still seeing nothing you get on From The North. Tittle-tattle, possibly! The move is Google's biggest yet in responding to growing criticism over the relevancy of the world's most popular search engine. It vowed to address the concerns in January. Last week Google launched an extension to its Chrome web browser allowing users to set up a 'personal blacklist' of sites that would no longer appear in their search results. Google said eighty three per cent of the 'top dozen or so' sites which most often featured on the blacklist were demoted with its algorithm change. Responding to Google's announcement, Demand Media's executive vice president, Larry Fitzgibbon, said: 'As might be expected, a content library as diverse as ours saw some content go up and some go down in Google search results. This is consistent with what Google discussed on their blog post. It's impossible to speculate how these or any changes made by Google impact any online business in the long term – but at this point in time, we haven't seen a material net impact on our content and media business.' The move will also be seen as part of Google's wider attempt to woo news organisations and other 'high-quality' content producers. Some publishers' content had slipped down Google search results as content farms rose in prominence. Last week Google unveiled plans for its One Pass online charging service for newspapers and magazines, just a day after Apple unveiled a rival internet payment offering for publishers.

A brilliant one hundred and fifty eight from captain Andrew Strauss saw England tie an extraordinary World Cup group match against India in Bangalore. The co-hosts set an intimidating three hundred and thirty nine-run victory target after a superb one hundred and twenty knock from Sachin Tendulkar. Strauss was in breathaking form and, along with Ian Bell, put England in command with a one hundred and seventy-run third-wicket partnership. Zaheer Khan dismissed both batsmen in successive balls, and Paul Collingwood a few balls later to put India back on top, until late blows from the lower order set up a grandstand finish. With England wanting twenty nine from the last two overs, having earlier faced a much easier equation of sixty seven runs from the last ten overs, they eventually fell just one run short of an improbable victory, needing two off the final ball. The late drama finished off the most enthralling match of the tournament so far, a game which both teams will feel they should have won but which both might easily have lost. The much-anticipated, sell-out Group B encounter featured two superbly crafted centuries and a maiden five-wicket limited-overs haul by Yorkshire's all rounder Tim Bresnan, fast becoming England's most reliable one-day bowler. The tourists' riposte had been constructed around an inspirational individual innings from Strauss, whose one hundred and fifty eight was the joint-second highest individual score by an England player in a limited-overs international. The England captain, dropped on twenty two by Harbhajan Singh, was in imperious form, smashing thirteen boundaries and a six in a ruthless one hundred and forty five-ball innings, silencing the fiercely partisan crowd inside the capacity M Chinnaswamy Stadium. But Zaheer struck just when England were about to accelerate their run rate after taking the batting powerplay in the forty third over. Bell was the first to fall for sixty nine when he top-edged an off-side scythe to Virat Kohli at extra cover and the very next ball saw Strauss trapped leg before wicket by a brilliant inswinging yorker. The double strike deflated England's innings, but late lower-order hitting from Bresnan and Graeme Swann, who each struck timely sixes, left England requiring fourteen from the final over of the match. Ajmal Shahzad shifted the odds in England's favour when he struck a six straight back over bowler Munaf Patel's head with the third delivery of the over. A leg-bye, followed by a two from Swann left the batsmen needing two runs from the final delivery of the match - but Swann's off drive could not beat Yusuf Pathan at mid-off, leaving the ninth-wicket pair to run through for the single which tied the match. The gritty performance against the pre-tournament favourites contrasted vividly with England's uninspired six-wicket victory over the Netherlands on Tuesday. England had only won one of their previous thirteen encounters against the co-hosts in India - and another defeat looked on the cards when Mahendra Dhoni opted to bat on what appeared to be good wicket, despite the persistent heavy showers which had engulfed Bangalore and the lush green outfield in the previous forty eight hours. England made two changes, dropping Ravi Bopara for Michael Yardy while Shahzad was summoned in place of the ill Stuart Broad. India swapped seamer Sreesanth for leg-spinner Piyush Chawla. The capricious Sehwag (thirty five) gave India a typically ballistic start before an audacious late cut from Bresnan's first over was too close to wicketkeeper Matt Prior, who took an excellent diving one-handed catch to his right in the eighth over at 46-1. Gautam Gambhir, an astute player of spin, maintained Sehwag's tempo while Tendulkar had been relatively restrained with twenty four from forty three deliveries. But a change of bat in the seventeenth over soon addressed his run scoring, thumping the first six of the match before bringing up ninty fourth half-century with yet another imperious maximum off Paul Collingwood. The onslaught was relentless - two successive leg-side sixes off the returning Swann, lofting the first over long-on before dispatching the second with a brutal slog-sweep high over deep midwicket and into the stands as the second-wicket partnership stretched to over one hundred. But an unplayable Swann delivery from around the wicket accounted for Gambhir (fifty one), pitching on middle before gripping and clipping the edge of the left-hander's off stump. The dismissal caused minimal disruption to Tendulkar's nerves, bringing up his forty seventh one-day century with a glance off his hip. To put Tendulkar's career achievements in perspective, the entire England XI have just twenty two one-day centuries between them - and he soon took his maximums tally to five with a stand and deliver smear over long-on. The thirty seven-year-old's majestic knock came to an end in the thirty ninth over but Yuvraj (fifty eight) and Dhoni (thirty one) took India beyond the three hundred mark before the impressive Bresnan cleaned up the lower-middle order as India were dismissed for 338 of the penultimate ball of their fiftieth over. Facing a required run-rate of 6.78, England openers Strauss and Kevin Pietersen took full advantage of some bizarre field placements by Dhoni, smashing nine boundaries in an exhilarating start during the opening power play. Strauss, given an early lifeline by Harbhajan when he misjudged a tough chance at mid-on, was in particularly belligerent mood square of the wicket. A huge slice of fortune accounted for Pietersen, whose ferocious drive straight at Patel's head was parried in the air before the bowler completed a simple one-handed catch while sitting on the ground. With his fast bowlers unable to exert any control, Dhoni turned to spinners Harbhajan and Piyush Chawla to apply the brakes as Strauss notched a run-a-ball fifty. After Jonathan Trott had added a run-a-ball sixteen, Bell looked at ease alongside Strauss at the wicket, although the number four was fortunate to survive an close lbw call turned down by umpire Billy Bowden at 163-2. India immediately referred the decision and the ball-tracking device available to the third umpire suggested the ball had made contact with Bell's front pad in line with the stumps - but more than 2.5m down the wicket, which saved Bell's wicket even though the ball was predicted to hit middle. That let-off allowed Bell to play an excellent foil as Strauss scored a quite brilliant century from just ninety nine deliveries, his sixth one-day international three-figure score. Bell launched a laconic sweep over deep midwicket for six to bring up his half century from just forty five balls as England dominated. But the match turned in the forty third over as Zaheer came back. Collingwood, Prior and Yardy soon followed as England's run chase looked to have faltered, but lusty sixes from the lower-order batsmen ensured England remained - just - contention through to the extraordinary final over. It was somewhat disappointing, however, to watch the BBC's early evening news some hours later and discover that their - alleged - sports correspondent, Amanda Davies, seemingly, does not know the difference between 'a draw' (a result which is, of course, impossible in limited overs cricket) and 'a tie.' Jeez, John Arlott must be turning in his grave!

Big fat sweaty Beth Ditto has revealed that she recently vomited and wet herself during a night out on the razz. Well, we've all done it, be fair. No? Oh well, just me then. The Gossip singer explained that although she has matured in many ways, her drunken behaviour remains unchanged. She said: 'I got drunk and simultaneously puked and pissed my own pants recently.' The singer went on to insist that she has not toned down her raucous personality. 'If anything, I have more opinions now because I'm not a kid anymore and I know what I'm talking about,' Ditto added. 'I just think about things a lot more now.' The thirty-year-old has a marriage 'pact' with her best friend of ten years, Kristin, with whom she began a relationship shortly after ending her nine-year romance with former partner Freddie. She confirmed: 'When we were nineteen we had a pact we would get married. I love her so much.'

And so to your actual Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day, dear blog reader. And d'you know what, I'm a bit tried of nothing but white boys with guitars after the last week. (Don't worry, I'll get back to them sooner or later.) Cos, like, yer Keith Telly Topping's always had this dance element to his music. It's not where you're from, it's where you're at. Kylie, Kylie, sweet and smiley, sing us a song in a rub-a-dub stylee.And now, sing us another one and bring Robbie along for the party! Them eyes, those lips. Tasty. 'I be looking for serial monogomy/Not some bird that looks like Billy Connolly.' Me too, baby. It's a dirty rotten shame, innit?