County news January 16, 2013

Durham exit could end Blackwell career


Ian Blackwell's career may be over at the age of 34 after his contract was terminated a year early by Durham.

Blackwell, who played one Test and 34 ODIs for England, recently underwent the third bout of surgery on a long-standing shoulder injury and was thought unlikely to be fit for the first three or four months of the 2013 season.

Despite an impressive first-class record - he scored over 11,000 first-class runs at a fraction under 40 and claimed 398 first-class wickets at 35.91 apiece - he fell out of favour at Durham during 2012 and did not feature in their Championship side after May.

A destructive batsman and reliable left-arm spinner, Blackwell would surely have won more opportunities for England had he embraced the requisite fitness ethic. He attempted, on various occasions, to lose weight with varying degrees of success but, eventually, temptation always got the better of him.

Over the last few years his increasingly rounded figure provided something of a throwback to a more innocent age in the professional game. He was well suited to his sobriquet - The Blacksmith - and the county circuit will be a little less entertaining for the news that he laid down his hammer and tongs for the final time.

But he could play. His double-century for Somerset against Derbyshire at Taunton in 2003 is the fastest, in terms of balls received, ever made by an Englishman. It occupied just 134 balls, with the second 100 coming off only 41 deliveries. And, with his unostentatious spin, he took 43 wickets - 10 more than any spinner had previously managed in a season for Durham - as the county successfully defended their Championship title in 2009.

His sole Test came at Nagpur in 2006 - the game in which Alastair Cook and Monty Panesar also made their debuts - and, though he struck a typically commanding 82 in his second ODI, he failed to pass 50 in any of his other 34 matches and, at one stage in 2003, scored one run in four successive innings against Australia.

After making his debut for his native Derbyshire, he left the county - largely due to a dislike of Dominic Cork - as part of a widespread exodus and joined Somerset in 2000. He spent nine happy seasons at a club that has always had a soft spot for big-hitting allrounders but, struggling to fit in with Justin Langer's less romantic approach to fitness, departed for Durham at the end of 2008.

He may reflect that his career ended on a high. Loaned out to Warwickshire for the final few weeks of the 2012 season, he was part of the side that clinched the County Championship title and his last game was the CB40 final at Lord's. A future as an umpire beckons.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on January 17, 2013, 20:53 GMT

    I really liked him at Somerset esp in the shorter formats. I seem to remember him doing well for Eng when coming in when 5 down and struggling in a WC match. He was also a very underrated guy with the ball in hand. I remember him being a bit chucky when he played for Somerset but he seems to have added to his weight from my last sighting of him. Maybe brings a new meaning to the term All Rounder?

  • Bruce on January 17, 2013, 13:22 GMT

    Once, many moons ago, I saw Mr. Blackwell score a magical innings of 98 against Surrey at The Oval. It's always stuck in my mind because of the class of the innings and because he was applauded all the way back to the pavilion by Adam Hollioake and his men. Great memory.

  • Mark on January 17, 2013, 10:45 GMT

    If he wants to keep playing, the best option would be to aim for the T20 window and offer himself as a pay-for-play option. Do well and he could get a 1-year playing contract for 2014. As various people have said, it is asking a lot of a county to take a risk and sign a player pre-season who has long-term issues, is near the end of his career and, on top of that, is going to miss at least half of the season.

  • Andrew on January 17, 2013, 9:22 GMT

    Blackie finished? - I feel old! its seems like yesterday when he was opening the bowling for Derbys U19's bowling medium pace and blasting it around at number 5 - should of known what was coming when he took a window out at Trent Bridge, it must of been a 90 meter hit - he was about 16 at the time. Really enjoyed the way he has played the game & has a very good record. Cant see why he shouldn't cash in on the T20 circuit unless injured/ timing is right for 1st class umpires list.

  • Steve on January 17, 2013, 9:11 GMT

    Clubs aren't just feeding troughs for players, they have a real responsibility to keep themselves fit. Perhaps you can't blame Blackwell for this injury, but his shape over the last couple of years suggests his fitness is only going one way. In two seasons time, will he really be up for Division 1 cricket? He was much missed last season but made no impact when things were going wrong. It's a sad goodbye. Good luck to him as an umpire.

  • Ian on January 17, 2013, 9:01 GMT

    @mikey76 - Funny you should say that about the cash-strapped counties. However, for that same reason, they might not be able to stand the cost. If Tredders remains in England's thoughts, Kent might want an experienced replacement spinner (with batting as a bonus). However, the report says Blackwell is injured at the start of the season, and I don't see any county wanting to pick up the tab (especially not one where money is limited). They'd sign him mid-season when he was fit to play - and there is the problem. What condition will he be in if left to his own devices? By mid season he might have eaten even more pies and be so unfit that nobody wants to take the chance.

  • Mark on January 17, 2013, 8:05 GMT

    With injury and fitness concerns, probably he is a more viable proposition for T20 and one-dayers than County Championship. However, if he is going to miss the first half of the season it does rather put a dampener on his options. It will be interesting to see if a county has a punt on him to play T20 and then take it from there.

  • michael on January 17, 2013, 3:20 GMT

    Surely one of the struggling counties like Leicestershire or Kent would be happy to grant him a two year contract. Not many all rounders on the circuit can boast a record as good as his. One has to wonder why guys like him just couldn't knuckle down and get fit. Who knows what career he might have had if he'd left the doughnuts alone.