Ian Blackwell eyes a flying start for Durham

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ALL-ROUNDER Ian Blackwell hopes his century against Durham University yesterday can act as a building block for the new season.

Blackwell was in imperious form with a knock of 158, which helped steer Durham to a commanding total of 471-8 .

The all-rounder hit 21 fours and two sixes, and put together a huge partnership with Liam Plunkett, who made his first ever ton for the county, hitting an unbeaten 107 off 184 balls including 10 fours.

Blackwell said: “I started well against the MCC in the opening match in my first year for Durham, and that set my standard for what was a really successful season for the team and me personally. Hopefully this is a positive sign for more of the same.”

Durham will certainly be hoping that is the case when the County Championship gets under way with a trip to Hampshire on Friday.

Geoff Cook’s side have been working hard during the winter, and have just returned from a pre-season tour of Dubai.

And despite the change in climate, Blackwell admits he was happy to get back to the good old English weather.

“It was good to get some time in the middle in British conditions after our tour in Dubai,” he said.

“It’s important to start the season with some momentum, you always want to start the season scoring runs and it’s great to have hit the ground running.

“We’ve all put a lot of hard work in over the winter months so to see the batting line up performing well yesterday was great.”

Blackwell put together a partnership of 232 with Plunkett, which was invaluable as Durham were in danger of floundering on 198-6 when the latter came to the crease.

And Blackwell was delighted that his team-mate, whose previous high score for Durham was 94 against Sussex in 2009, finally got a maiden ton under his belt.

“The lads were really pleased to see Liam score his maiden first-class hundred,” he said. “He came so close against Sussex a few years back so it will mean a lot to him too.”

Head coach Cook was also impressed with Plunkett’s innings.

“It was excellent for Liam to get a hundred, and his bowling also looked as though it’s going in the right direction, so it’s been a pleasing couple of days for him.”

There were cameo’s for Ben Stokes and Mark Stoneman with the bat. Stokes hitting three sixes in his total of 51 off 62 balls, while opener Stoneman weighed in with 73.

Cook expects to have bowlers Steve Harmison and Callum Thorp available for Friday’s clash at the Rose Bowl, but the game is likely to come too soon for Graham Onions.

The England man is expected to continue his rehabilitation by playing in a one-day match against the University side on Thursday, and could be in contention for Durham’s clash with Yorkshire at Headingley next week.