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22nd December 2009

Ian Blackwell Interviewed for Riverside Review

“I was so pleased to be named Player of the Year, it meant so much, especially as it’s voted for by the supporters.

“I came up here when I was a youngster, and I used to go to the Rainton Arena at the Northern Echo School of Excellence, so I’ve always had that attachment to the area. But I just think the way that Durham play their cricket, and squad that they’ve got together, the attractive ground as well, and the fact that I knew Geoff were all key factors in my move here. I was playing at the other end of the country, so it’s not a decision that was made lightly.

“Timing was always an issue, especially with a very young family. It’s been quite tough. I’ve a wife at home as well who’s had a lot to cope with this year as well as travelling the length of the country. She’s fitted in really well up at Durham and everybody’s made us feel really welcome. I think that’s made things fairly easy in terms of moving a fairly significant distance.

“When I did decide to move counties one of the main targets I wanted to achieve was to win things, and I came to Durham, a county with a growing reputation as a quality county. It’s been a fantastic start. We’ve proven there is quality here and hopefully for a long time to come. There’s always that desire and the players strive to win things. You can see the confidence that’s flowing now. We’ve got a great set of bowlers together and a decent batting line-up with experience, some wise heads, and a class keeper. We’ve got pretty much all bases covered, and I’m sure that’s something that Geoff Cook’s been trying to get together at Durham for the last few years. 

You’ve got to give credit to Geoff, who was obviously chuffed to bits that they’d won the championship for the first time, but he’s not just rested on his laurels. He’s wanted to improve the squad, and I’m grateful to him that he approached me and said “look, we really want you to come and play for us.

“At the start of the season I went off with bang, with the bat especially. I’d like to have got a thousand runs, but opportunities have been quite limited because we’ve played really good cricket and we haven’t batted twice in every game, which certainly makes it more difficult. I haven’t notched up the amount of runs that I’d have liked, but in terms of averaging 40, that was probably one of my targets. And 20-odd with the ball, it’s probably the most wickets that I’ve ever taken, especially in the four-day stuff.

“I was delighted to get my hundred at Lord’s against the MCC in my first game for Durham, I wanted to make a good impression and start the season off well. It was really pleasing, especially as it was my first hundred at Lord’s. I can think of a number of highlights that have made it a particularly good season for me, there was the 7 for 85 at Lancashire, but there’s been many more important innings. When we played Yorkshire at home I got 95 in the second innings, and then the 150 at Edgbaston, so I played some timely innings that have been of benefit to the club, more beneficial for the team than my own personal game.

“For Somerset’s visit to Riverside I probably couldn’t have written a better script, taking 5-7. It was a bit bizarre really. Steve Harmison went off to tape his foot up, so Will Smith said just come and have an over while he gets strapped and comes back on. So I have one over and there’s a bit of damp at the end I was bowling at, and Harmy just said “give it another one and see how you go”. I got the first wicket and it just sort of went from there. I got two with arm-balls, so that was obviously a bonus for me. Maybe it was just a bit of pressure.

“I’d like to think that when people do come up against me they know that I’m a solid cricketer and I try my best all the time. I have had a tear in my shoulder that did cause some discomfort during the season, meaning that I had to have injections at certain intervals to reduce the pain, but that was operated on in early October. The tear was stitched up so now I need some time working on getting it strengthened again. But it’ll certainly take three months to get to throwing over any sort of distance, so it’l be quite hard work in the winter.

“I’ll definitely be going into my second season with the club with the same enthusiasm and drive as my first – as a team we set ourselves high standards on the field and we want to make sure we keep moving forward. Our aim is to win three on the trot.. It’s an outstanding effort that we didn’t lose a game this year and to win it with two games to go is probably the best we could have asked for. But even if we win it in the last day with the last ball next year, it could still be an outstanding season.”