As a left-arm unorthodox wrist spinner, Canterbury slow bowler Blake Coburn possessed one of the rarest talents and actions in the New Zealand Domestic game, and for that matter, internationally.
It's a challenge Kiwi players will no longer have to face up to after the 27-year-old from Canterbury Country confirmed his retirement from the professional game, today.
A product of Shirley Boys' High, Coburn has represented Canterbury across the past six seasons, having started with a bang in 2017/18 and finishing with eight Plunket Shield appearances, 10 List A Ford Trophy matches, and 17 Dream11 Super Smash starts.
His niche talent meant he would often find himself selected in the squad but left to carry the drinks when the 11 horses were picked for the courses. But his spectacular first-class career best of 7/64 against Northern Districts, at his home ground in Rangiora early on in his debut season when he was just 21, showed how dangerous he could be, given the opportunity.
That was just his second first-class match, and he finished with eight for the match and 15 wickets for the season from seven games. He would not play another Plunket Shield game until 2022/23, however: his red-ball appearance against the Wellington Firebirds in Rangiora in March. That now becomes his last appearance for Canterbury, with Logan van Beek his final victim.
Injury had been an unwelcome acquaintance, but he fought his way back from setbacks. He appeared in the 2018, 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023 editions of the Dream11 Super Smash, with a best of 4/17 against the Stags in 2019/20.
After a long absence, he would finally get back into the red and black Ford Trophy jersey this past season - playing in both The Ford Trophy Elimination Final and Grand Final in 2023, among five List A matches in his final summer.
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It was his first time back in this format since November 2018, and he finishes with 10 wickets (five in 2018/19 and five in 2022/23), including a brace against the Otago Volts in Queenstown that helped push Canterbury across the line and into this season's nation Final.
Coburn has also been a regular star for the Canterbury Country Hawke Cup team. Canterbury Country is the current holder of the Hawke Cup, and has racked up a record number of defences in the team's history at its Mainpower Oval fortress, with the next challenge to be played against Hawke's Bay at the start of 2023/24.
Canterbury Cricket said today marks the end of a chapter for its cricketing whānau.
Coach Peter Fulton said, "Blake has been a valued member of the Canterbury squad ever since he made his first-class debut in 2017.
"A particular highlight of his career was bowling Canterbury to victory against Northern Districts during his debut season. Blake took 7/64 at Mainpower to clinch a day-four Plunket Shield win.
"Everyone at Canterbury Cricket fully respects his decision to call time on his playing career and explore other opportunities. We wish Blake well as he embarks on the next chapter."
Coburn's retirement makes him the second Canterbury men's spinner to hang up the kit this season, after the earlier retirement from all forms by longtime legspinner Todd Astle.
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