Ian Blackwell announces retirement
Ian Blackwell, 34, has announced his retirement from cricket. The decision comes as little surprise - Blackwell had been struggling with a left shoulder problem, and his contract was terminated by Durham in January.
He will not be lost to cricket and has already declared an ambition to train as an umpire, a role his jovial demeanor could be well suited to. He will umpire some second XI games in 2013, with a view to progressing to the first-class reserve list next year.
Blackwell's first-class record - averaging 39 with the bat and 35 with the ball - made him arguably the best county all-rounder of the 2000s. His batting was always explosive, his slog-sweep against spin standing out.
Although he says he became "more of a batsman than a bowler", despite starting his career batting at nine, Blackwell's left-arm spin remained a very useful county weapon, evidenced by the 398 first-class wickets.
Yet internationally, it was his bowling that was better able to handle the step-up in class. In 34 ODIs, he maintained an economy of only 4.27 an over, and was unfortunate to be injured after keeping his head above water during England's ignominious ODI winter of 2005-06 in Pakistan and India.
Two things held him back. Blackwell was always criticised for his attitude to fitness: his frame did not fit easily into Duncan Fletcher's image of the 21st-century England cricketer. And his greatest county asset, his belligerent batting, seemed becalmed in an England shirt: he averaged only 15 in ODIs. There was a solitary Test cap too, against India at Nagpur in 2006, where he made his debut alongside current England captain Alastair Cook and Monty Panesar.
Blackwell says he cherished his international appearances. "I enjoyed the times with England, and I'll look back and have some fond memories. I can say I performed at a reasonable standard. I was probably selected as an all-rounder but I batted higher for my county than for England, and subsequently never got the chance to bat for any length of time except if we were doing badly."
But at county level, Blackwell was seldom short of success. He ended his career on loan at Warwickshire, winning the Championship and very nearly the CB40 too. He also had Championship success at Durham, and won the Twenty20 in 2005 at Somerset.
Although he began his career with home county Derbyshire, it was Somerset that he will be most associated with. Over nine years, he proved a perfect match at Taunton, where he registered a career-best 247* in 2003. The last 147 runs came from 63 balls, testament to how destructive Blackwell's blade could be. Somerset will now be his home.