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Durham have terminated the contract of all-rounder Ian Blackwell according to a report on ESPNcricinfo.
The 34 year-old had a year left on his contract at Durham, but featured in only one first-team game for them after the end of May. He spent the final few weeks of the season on-loan at Warwickshire and was part of the side that clinched the LV= County Championship title and finished as runner-up in the Clydesdale Bank 40. Should his release by Durham mark the end of a fine career, as seems likely, then his final match will have been the closely-contested CB40 final at Lord’s, which Warwickshire lost on the final ball to Hampshire.
Sadly, Blackwell is unlikely to be signed by another county. He is currently recovering from an operation on a long-standing shoulder injury and has battled an expanding waistline for much of his career.
A heart-warming sight on any cricket field - whether striking lusty blows over mid-wicket or outfoxing batsmen with his under-rated left-arm spin - his general fitness, or lack of, has undeniably held him back. Indeed, along with his heft salary, it is likely to be a principal reason for Durham’s decision to release him. New captain Paul Collingwood, who took over following the mid-season sacking of Phil Mustard, is known to be keen to have as fit as squad as possible, while the penalty Durham received at the end of last season for breaching the ECB’s salary cap will have made the decision to release him an easier one.
Nonetheless, Blackwell has enjoyed a prolific career, firstly with his native Derbyshire, then with Somerset and finally with Durham and, briefly, Warwickshire - the latter two with whom he won the County Championship. His undoubted talent saw him play one Test and 34 One-Day Internationals for England despite then coach Duncan Fletcher having a reputation as a stickler for fitness.
Overall, in first-class cricket, he averaged almost 40 with the bat and less than 36 with the ball during the course of 210 matches. In list A cricket, his averages stand at 27.19 and 34.3.
The knowledge that he would have missed much of the 2013 season, in any event, because of his shoulder injury, had already forced Blackwell to think of his future. He has plans to become a first-class umpire and looks likely to make the ECB’s reserve list in 2014.
If all goes according to plan, then county cricket lovers everywhere should soon, once again, be greeted by the sight of Blackwell’s familiar figure on a cricket field.
© Cricket World 2013
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