Emergence of Blackwell bodes well for England

Another one-day tournament, another defeat for England. It was as predictable as it was familiar. But as the dust began to settle yesterday on the stupefying manner of their exit from the Champions Trophy it was possible to discern through the haze a distinct glimmer.

Another one-day tournament, another defeat for England. It was as predictable as it was familiar. But as the dust began to settle yesterday on the stupefying manner of their exit from the Champions Trophy it was possible to discern through the haze a distinct glimmer.

This was a welcome, not to say essential, sight when the opposition have treated your bowlers with a disdain approaching contempt and scored 270 to win in under 40 overs. It came in the substantial shape of Ian Blackwell who played an innings to match that might change his life.

Blackwell scored, or rather bludgeoned, 82 from 68 balls. It was only his second international match. True, he was to be overshadowed by the deeds of Virender Sehwag, who amassed 126 from 104 balls, and Sourav Ganguly, 117 not out in 109, as India won by eight wickets. But the only real difference was that Blackwell finished on the losing side.

"Going into international level is always going to be a big step and I wasn't too sure how I'd make out," he said yesterday after a short night's sleep. "I didn't know if I was going to be nervous and overawed. It turned out to be weird, a sort of numbness. Then I hit a few in the middle of the bat, got away and I calmed down."

It was not simply that Blackwell scored his runs, it was that he engineered the rescue of England's innings and propelled them – nervelessly as it happened – to what seemed a competitive total.

Alec Stewart, his partner in a stand of 104 for the sixth wicket, confirmed that while Blackwell's face might have been red his head was cool.

Blackwell already has a cult following at Somerset where his clean, direct hitting must have affected the county's profits because he is the sort of player who empties bars. This is not to suggest that he is the finished article – he is several pounds overweight and probably not as fit as he could be (though it should also be reported that there was no sign of his wilting in the Colombo heat). But he has surely now propelled himself to a place in England's one-day squad for the tri-series in Australia announced this week, and the World Cup beyond that.

Blackwell's middle-order promise, however, could not deflect attention from England's bowling difficulties about which their captain, Nasser Hussain, was candid. He conceded that they had to do better when a side was coming at them with the bat.

It is a deeply disturbing trait with the World Cup so close. England, simply, can be torn to shreds. Andrew Caddick is a talented bowler but he can be at sixes and sevens when the batsmen are letting him know they are there. On Sunday night he was at eight and a halves as figures of 0-59 in seven overs demonstrate.

England may soon have to learn to do without Darren Gough but at present they can barely cope. Hussain said England needed character, variation and the ability to think on their feet. He could have had Gough in mind. But Gough is not certain to recover fully from knee surgery.

Before condemning the one-day side to a long winter of failure it should be remembered that they came here with a squad containing five replacements. It was bound to weaken their chances (though Blackwell was among the stand-ins). Michael Vaughan, Paul Collingwood and Michael Vaughan will all return.

Perhaps the state of the one-day bowling was mentioned when Tim Lamb, chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board, had talks here yesterday with Duncan Fletcher about a contract extension. The England coach's present agreement ends at the end of next season but there is a mutual desire for a new deal.

It will be signed before the team leave for Australia in mid-October, which lends a hint of marrying in haste and repenting at leisure. The possibility is that his tenure will be for a further two years and it is to be hoped after the Ashes and the World Cup that neither party regrets it.

As for Colombo, England leave tomorrow. The four sides left are Sri Lanka, Australia, India and South Africa. Any of them could win it but an India-Australia final is some prospect.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there