Durham can defy the odds - Blackwell
Ian Blackwell admits he is surprised Durham still have a chance of winning the LV= County Championship – but is convinced they are capable of doing so.
Durham’s prospects of reclaiming the trophy they lifted in 2008 and 2009 appeared slim a fortnight ago, but a comprehensive victory over Sussex – allied to Lancashire’s shock defeat to Worcestershire and Warwickshire’s draw with Yorkshire – saw them assume top spot.
Victories for Warwickshire and Lancashire this week may have shunted Durham, who were not in action, down to third heading into the final round of games starting tomorrow, but Blackwell insists a 15-point deficit is far from unassailable.
“It’s going to be an interesting week,” Blackwell told ecb.co.uk. “We’re still in with a great chance of winning the title.
“If you’d asked me what the chances were of winning the title before last weekend, I would have said they were dead and buried.
“But things change very fast in cricket, and now we just have to approach next week as normally as possible.
“We’re not going to change anything in the build-up. It’s important that we don’t put any more pressure on ourselves than necessary, so we just need to make sure we are ready and can stand up and be counted next week.”
With their title rivals in action as late as yesterday, Blackwell hopes Durham’s week of preparation will stand them in good stead for the visit of Worcestershire.
“It’s a good thing we weren’t playing because we’ve been able to go on the training ground and work on certain things, and it also means we’ll be relaxed and ready to go when we start the game.”
A member of the 2009 championship-winning side in his first season at Durham following his move from Somerset, Blackwell has tasted success in the domestic game’s premier competition.
That does not mean the sense of anticipation has not been building over the last few days – even for a player who, at 33, is nearer the end of his career than the start.
He said: “I’m getting on a bit now and have played a lot of games, but at the end of the day it’s these sort of games you want to play when you’re a cricketer. The atmosphere in the squad is good and we’re really looking forward to it.”
Regardless of the outcome this week, Blackwell can be satisfied with his contribution this season.
He is one of only four Durham players to have featured in every championship game, and 824 runs at 39.23 and 32 wickets at 31.15 apiece reflect his impact with bat and ball.
A typically brisk 61 in the second innings followed by 5-102 with his slow left-armers to wrap up victory over Sussex provide further evidence of his all-round worth to a Durham side who this week welcome back opening batsman Michael Di Venuto from an elbow injury.
“I’m pretty happy with my performance, although every season has its ups and downs,” he said. “Sometimes I’ve had a good run in the side, but other times I’ve not bowled much at all.
“But I can’t really complain at managing over 800 runs and 30 wickets so I’m pretty happy satisfied with that.”
That satisfaction is sure be multiplied should Durham defy the odds this week.