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Blackwell on cusp of historic milestone

Australia's most-capped female player will play match No.250 for Australia in Coffs Harbour on Sunday

It’s Tuesday morning in Coffs Harbour, two days before Australia’s next one-day international assignment against England.

Alex Blackwell, veteran batter, is at breakfast, focused, studying the past to prepare for the future.

On the table is a laptop and a black book. She’s watching footage of her match-winning knock at Allan Border Field, an unbeaten 67 on Sunday, and taking notes on every ball she faced.

0. 1. 4. 1. 0. 1. 0. 1. 4.

Each ball. All 86 of them. Numbers on a page, each one telling a different story.

Blackwell is playing detective, searching for trends, patterns, clues.

Blackwell bests England with match-winning hand

She’s found something. A series of dot balls after she was dropped. Perhaps the let-off affected her, changed her game, her mindset.

Whatever it was it didn’t last long. Blackwell refocused, her mind back on the job and from there was chanceless as she calmly drove Australia to victory.

That type of invaluable experience doesn’t come overnight. It takes years to build and foster. Fourteen years and 249 matches for Australia, to be precise.

On Sunday, a week after turning in a match-winning innings, Blackwell will play match No.250 for her country. An incredible achievement by Australia’s most capped female cricketer.

"It feels like it’s flown by," Blackwell said on Friday reflecting on the milestone.

"I absolutely love playing for Australia and trying to get the best out of myself as a batter and as a leader within the team as well.

"I think I’ve got a fair bit to offer in terms of experience and I just love seeing the young players be able to show what they’ve got and express themselves out there."

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As cricket has evolved with the introduction of T20 cricket, advanced technology and professionalism, so has Blackwell.

She debuted at the age of 19 in New Zealand against England in January, 2003, an ODI that Australia won by seven wickets. Blackwell wasn’t required to bat.

Her Test debut – the first of 11 matches in the Baggy Green – came a month later, again it was England she faced. After scoring four in the first innings she then, as she has done so often in her glittering career, saw Australia to victory with a gritty nine from 85 balls.

For so long Blackwell had been the rock of Australia’s middle order, getting her team out of tricky spots with unwavering determination and resolve.

But now she’s got a power game, a deep inventory of shots and the ability to hit the ball 360 degrees, with an aim to hit the ball 720 degrees. It’s a thing.

As she describes it, she’s turned herself from a “shit hits the fan” player at No.6 to an “icing on the cake” player, and the spoils have never tasted sweeter.

"When I first made the team when I was 19 I think a 220 score in a one-dayer was a very good score,” Blackwell said when asked how the game has changed in her career.

"Now we understand that’s well below par.

"We nearly got a 300 total last night, that’s the Holy Grail.

"We want to be aiming for that each time, a run a ball, we’re very capable of doing that and set the platform last night to do that."

Haynes rains runs in Coffs Harbour

As the game changes so does Blackwell, and you can bet after Sunday’s milestone match she’ll be reviewing her innings, ball by ball, shot by shot, aiming to get better.

Three-hundred might be the Holy Grail for Australia, but it’s a figure Blackwell could find herself celebrating in a few years if recent trends continue. 

Australia's most-capped women's cricketers

  1.  Alex Blackwell - 249 matches
  2. Lisa Sthalekar - 187
  3. Ellyse Perry - 181
  4. Karen Rolton - 170
  5. Meg Lanning - 136

Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes

Australia lead England 4-0

Australia squad (ODI and Test): Rachael Haynes (C), Alex Blackwell (VC), Kristen Beams, Nicole Bolton, Lauren Cheatle, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa (Test only), Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington.

England squad: Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Sophie Ecclestone, Georgia Elwiss, Jenny Gunn, Alex Hartley, Danielle Hazell, Laura Marsh, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Nat Sciver, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield, Danielle Wyatt.

Schedule


First ODI Australia won by two wickets

Second ODI Australia won by 75 runs (DLS method)

Third ODI Coffs International Stadium, October 29

Coffs Junior Cricket Association Partners: Coffs Harbour District JCA, Nambucca Bellingen JCA, and Clarence River JCA

Day-Night Test North Sydney Oval, November 9-12

First T20 North Sydney Oval, November 17

North Sydney Charity Partner: McGrath Foundation

Second T20 Manuka Oval, November 19

Third T20 Manuka Oval, November 21

Canberra Charity Partner: Lord's Taverners ACT