DURHAM are to terminate Ian Blackwell’s contract amid fears that his career may be over.

The 34-year-old all-rounder underwent a third shoulder operation two months ago and the surgeon feels it is unlikely he will be able to play again.

The news is not entirely unwelcome for Durham as they have been dissatisfied with Blackwell’s general fitness for the last two years and he was not selected for any county cricket after May last year.

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He ended the season on loan to Warwickshire, helping them to clinch the County Championship title and his last game was the CB40 final at Lord’s. It is believed he is interested in taking up umpiring.

Blackwell, Steve Harmison and Liam Plunkett were not required as Paul Collingwood’s successful captaincy saw them shrug off relegation.

But the fact that all were on lucrative contracts had forced a tightening of the purse strings.

Plans to sign an overseas batsman were shelved and there are currently no plans to repeat the usual pre-season trip to Dubai.

“We are finalising the contractual details with Ian,” said coach Geoff Cook. “This could free up a bit of money and we are talking to an overseas man.

“Not having an overseas pre-season trip would not be the end of the world as long as we had some reasonable spring weather to help us prepare.”

Like John Morris, another Durham player who began his career with Derbyshire, Blackwell will be remembered as a hugely talented performer who failed to maximise his potential.

In Blackwell’s case his carefree approach did not enamour him to Dominic Cork at Derbyshire or to his final captain during his nine seasons at Somerset, Justin Langer.

Although his immensely powerful hitting and economical left-arm spin earned him 34 one-day international appearances, Somerset had started to leave him out of their one-day team because of his immobility.

He joined Durham after they won their first championship title in 2008 and prior to the start of his first season he made a point of stressing how much weight he had lost over the winter.

He began by scoring a century in the MCC v Champions match at Lord’s and added 801 championship runs at an average of 40.05, while his total of 43 championship wickets was ten more than any spinner had previously achieved for Durham.

As the weight gradually went back on, his performances declined and he had a top score of 38 before he was dropped after six games last season.

Blackwell’s sole Test came at Nagpur in 2006, the game in which Alastair Cook and Monty Panesar also made their debuts.

Other than that, the highlight of his career may have been his double-century for Somerset against Derbyshire at Taunton in 2003.

Coming off 134 balls, it was the fastest, in terms of balls received, ever made by an Englishman.