Today’s Throwback Thursday goes back to September 2003 and a match against Derbyshire in which Ian Blackwell played a murderous innings that is still remembered to this day as one of the most powerful displays of clean hitting ever witnessed at the Cooper Associates County Ground.
Fielding a side that contained debutant James Hildreth along with several other less experienced players including Tom Webley, Gareth Andrew and Neil Edwards, skipper Mike Burns opted to bat first, a decision he must have doubted when the scoreboard showed 31 for 4, at which stage the 25 year old big hitter strode to the wicket.
Wickets continued to tumble at the other end as Dominic Cork took 4 wickets for 5 runs in the space of 18 balls.
‘Blackie’ then added 33 for the sixth wicket with Rob Turner (16), 64 for the eighth with Richard Johnson (25) and 70 for the ninth with Simon Francis who made 18. With the total showing 246 for nine and last man Nixon McLean making his way to the middle Somerset Members could be forgiven for thinking that the innings was all but over, especially when the West Indian was dropped first ball, and the team had made a reasonable recovery from their shaky start.
It was at this point that ‘Blackie’ started to let loose with a salvo of attacking shots rarely seen.
He cleared the old Ridley Stand on half a dozen occasions with sixes, which sent the goundstaff scurrying to retrieve the balls from St James’ Churchyard, and is even reckoned to have landed on the roof of the church! The 10th wicket partnership added 163, a new record for Somerset, beating the previous best of 143 between Jim Bridges and Arthur Holland Gibbs back in 1919.
McLean batted for an hour and had scored 39 when he was leg before wicket and Somerset were all out for 409 off 65 overs.
Blackwell remained at the other end unbeaten on 247 having been at the wicket for six minutes shy of four hours, faced 156 balls, hit 11 sixes and 27 fours. His last 197 runs came off just 94 balls!
In reply Derbyshire made 400 for 9 declared, Simon Francis taking 4 for 94. Batting for a second time Somerset were all out for 214 of which Matt Wood hit 72 and Mike Burns 58. ‘Blackie’ had the final say in the contest against his former County, who chasing 224 for victory looked well set at 178 for 4 before collapsing to 196 all out – the left arm spinner ending with 4 for 65.
Reflecting on his momentous innings 14 years ago Blackwell, who is currently on the First Class umpires reserve list, said: “Looking back to that game it makes me smile and I am reminded of it every time I go to the downstairs loo because I have got the scorecard on the wall!
“I am obviously very proud of that achievement but my overriding feeling is one of disbelief that it actually took place, I guess because how the game was going at the time. We were playing a young side and won the toss and decided to have a bat which was probably the wrong decision because the wicket was quite green.
“It was an interesting day. You look at how it panned out because we then went on to be seven down for just over 100 and some of the folk in the ground decided that Somerset were useless, they had seen enough and went into town shopping!”
‘Blackie’ went on: “They didn’t know what they missed because we got bowled out just before tea time for 409! One of the things that I am most proud of is scoring 204 runs in a session, which is ridiculous if you think about it because teams never score that many let alone one person”
“I think that Nixon McLean was dropped at slip first ball when he came in by Dominic Cork, and I think by that time I had scored 123 so I went onto double my score after he came in. Everything just seemed to go my way and it seemed like fate took over and the rest is history.
“We went on to win the game and I got four wickets in the second innings including having ‘Corky’ stumped – we’d been winding each other up throughout the game!”