Australia vice-captain Alex Blackwell has announced her retirement from international and state cricket, ending one of the game’s longest and most decorated careers.
Blackwell revealed her decision to call time on her 15-year Australian and 17-year NSW career in Sydney on Monday morning, one day after the Lendlease NSW Breakers sealed their spot in the 50-over Women’s National Cricket League final.
It means Blackwell will have a chance to captain her state one final time next Saturday against Western Australia at Blacktown, with the Breakers aiming for their 19th title from 22 editions of the WNCL.
She does intend to continue playing in the Rebel WBBL, where she has captained the Thunder since the inaugural season – leading them to the title in WBBL|01 and a semi-final berth in WBBL|03.
The 34-year-old’s announcement, which came just days before selectors were due to announce their Australian squad for next month’s tour of India, draws to a close an incredible 251-game international career.
Since making her debut in an ODI against England in January 2003, Blackwell has played 12 Tests, 144 ODIs and 95 T20Is, more than any other Australian woman.
She passed the 250-game mark last October during the Commonwealth Bank Women’s Ashes, while she racked up her 5000th international run last July during the World Cup in the UK.
Blackwell walks away with 5250 international runs to her name: 444 in Tests, 3492 in ODIs and 1314 in T20Is, where she is one of just seven Australians to have scored more than 1000 T20I runs.
All three of her centuries for Australia came in the one-day format, the first against England at the MCG in 2008, the others both against India at Canberra’s Manuka Oval, in 2008 and 2016.
She was part of Australia’s World Cup wins in 2005 and 2013, and captained the Southern Stars to their first World T20 title in the Caribbean in 2010, while also being part of their winning XIs in 2012 and 2014.
Blackwell captained Australia in 33 matches across the three formats, filling in on numerous occasions for former captain Jodie Fields and current skipper Meg Lanning. Along with winning a WT20 title, she also led Australia to victory in the 2011 Ashes Test, the hosts winning by seven wickets thanks to Rene Farrell’s memorable hat-trick.
Her most recent - and now, final - outing for Australia was last November's historic day-night Ashes Test.
The right-hander also holds the unique claim to being one half of the first set of identical twins to represent Australia in cricket, playing alongside sister Kate from 2004 to 2008.
Blackwell’s retirement is the end of an era for the national team and her absence from Australia’s next international engagement – next month’s ODI and T20I tour of India – will be notable. Since her debut, she’s featured in all 12 Tests played by the Southern Stars and in 144 of 165 ODIs. Of the 101 T20Is ever played by Australia, Blackwell featured in 95 of them.
A staple of the Southern Stars XI for 15 years, Blackwell has been equally prolific for NSW. Since playing her first match for the Breakers in 2001-02, debuting as a bowling allrounder before forging her reputation with the bat, she’s been part of 13 WNCL title-winning teams – and could make it 14 this Saturday.
But Blackwell’s influence on the game extends far beyond her runs scored and her leadership on the field. A vocal advocate for equality, Blackwell has been at the forefront during a time of rapid change for the women’s game that has brought increased pay and professionalism. In 2015, she quit her job as a genetic counsellor to become one of Australia’s first full-time female players.
To put her longevity into perspective, the youngest contracted Southern Star, 19-year-old Lauren Cheatle, was just beginning primary school when Blackwell made her international debut. The vice-captain’s influence as a player and a leader can be felt across the new generation of Australian and NSW players, while talented youngsters with big dreams can look to Blackwell as proof that cricket is now a career option for women.
"Alex has been a wonderful servant to Australian Cricket, and a tremendous leader both at national and international level, and we congratulate her on an outstanding career that has spanned more than 16 years," Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland said.
"She was a talented cricketer - a fierce competitor, hard-working and far more often than not, a winner - Alex played an instrumental role in the dominance of both the Australian and New South Wales teams over the last decade.
"Having reinvented herself in the shorter formats of the game in more recent years, Alex leaves the game as Australia’s most capped female player, having become the first Australian woman to play 200 games for her country, and sitting second and third in terms of runs scored in the T20 and ODI formats for Australia.
"We are very lucky to have had Alex and her twin sister Kate both represent Australia over a period of time, with the pair playing in many winning teams together at national and state level for New South Wales.
"There’s no doubt Alex will be missed but she should be incredibly proud of what she has achieved and the way she has competed on all stages, and we wish her all the best for the future ahead."
Australia tour of India
Warm-up match v India A, BKC Ground, Mumbai, March 8
Warm-up match v India A, BKC Ground, Mumbai, March 6
First ODI Vadodara International Cricket Stadium, March 12
Second ODI Vadodara International Cricket Stadium, March 15
Third ODI Vadodara International Cricket Stadium, March 18
First T20I Australia v India, Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai, March 22
Second T20I Australia v England, Brabourne Stadium, March 23
Third T20I India v England, Brabourne Stadium, March 25
Fourth T20I Australia v India, Brabourne Stadium, March 26
Fifth T20I Australia v England, Brabourne Stadium, March 28
Sixth T20I India v England, Brabourne Stadium, March 29
Final Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai, March 31