Blackwell in search of bigger stage

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The Independent Online

England resumed their search for a full-length game of one-day cricket yesterday by heading north from Trinidad to an unexplored destination. No England team have played an international match on Grenada before and in the past few days the members of this squad must have begun to wonder if they would play one anywhere again.

Of the 300 overs scheduled so far in the Cable & Wireless Series, only 75.3 have been bowled and one abbreviated match, in Guyana, completed. It is a reflection of the seemingly interminable nature of the series that there is still every chance of finding a proper winner. There are four more matches, starting tomorrow and lasting for a week.

Assuming the weather behaves itself this should give both sides just enough cricket to find out something more about their young players, such as whether they are good enough. England possess a few in that category and they never pass up a chance to mention what a young side they have brought here, as though they would have dared contemplate bringing an old one, or even a middle-aged one. None of the players will have more attention focused on him than the Somerset batting all-rounder, Ian Blackwell.

There is no more exciting batsman in the country - in most countries - than Blackwell. His demeanour, bucolic face, rotund features and huge, uncomplicated left-handed hitting have given him a significant cult following. He is worshipped in Somerset and in the recent Antigua Test - a match he was not even attending - a banner saying "Ian Blackwell Stand" adorned part of the ground for five days.

Last September he made an unbeaten 247 for Somerset against Derbyshire from 156 balls including 11 sixes.

The Sunday before last, in Georgetown, there were only two sixes in his 27. One struck a female spectator on the head (the team sent flowers after she had to go to hospital), the other landed in the lap of the England captain, Michael Vaughan.

"It's an awkward situation being the sort of all-rounder I am," he said. "If we're knocking off a small total I haven't really had a chance to bat and if the seamers do their job, I'm not a front-line spinner. Mine has only been a bit part."

Blackwell showed what he could do internationally by slamming 82 from 48 balls in his second match, in the ICC Trophy in Colombo.

With Andrew Flintoff now going in at five and Blackwell at six, England are waiting for the day when they strut their stuff together. "If we could get 10 overs, we'd have some fun," Blackwell said.

But he has to bat some more, to become accustomed to the ebb and flow of one-day cricket. He defies the modern compulsion for cricketers to be fitter than Derby winners and admitted of his weight: "They're always on my back about it." He claims to have redistributed his poundage rather than lost it but with a smile spreading across his considerable cheeks.

Still, no matter. The sun was shining in Trinidad yesterday but it was hosing down here and guess where England are?

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