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Cummins, Healy claim cricket's top honours at awards night

The Age logo The Age 11/02/2019 Jon Pierik

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In a year of mixed emotions for Australian cricket, pin-up boy Pat Cummins and the hard-hitting Alyssa Healy have been crowned the best male and female players at the sport's awards night in Melbourne.

Fast bowler Cummins, a fresh face of international cricket, claimed his maiden Allan Border Medal despite not being either the Test player of the year or the one-day international player of the year.

In a tight count through a voting period from January 9, 2018 to January 7 this year, he finished with 156 combined votes given by players, the media and umpires or matches referees, edging Nathan Lyon (150) and Aaron Finch (146), the latter enjoying a strong count despite a lean Test summer leading to his omission from the final Test against India.

Cummins claimed 36 wickets in eight Tests through the voting period - missing two Tests against Pakistan - while his lower-order batting improved to the point he could emerge as an all-rounder. He only played six one-day internationals and missed all Twenty20 matches but Test votes are weighted more heavily.

a man smiling for the camera: Pat Cummins is the 2019 Allan Border medallist. © AAP Pat Cummins is the 2019 Allan Border medallist. He enjoyed a maximum six votes in two Tests in South Africa, including in the infamous clash in Cape Town, and against India at the MCG when he produced a breathless second-innings haul of 6-27 and made 63.

The win capped a stunning rise for the 25-year-old, who last year was ranked the No.1 player by selectors on the Cricket Australia contract list and was recently made a joint Test vice-captain.

"It's crazy. Mitchell Johnson, I was there when he won it a few years ago (2014) and I think of the summer he had. All the incredible batsmen who have got it before - it's a bit weird to be honest," a delighted Cummins said.

This honor could strengthen his bid to be given a multi-year CA contract for which he has been pushing for.

Cummins, who only returned to the side last year after back issues had threatened his career, paid tribute to the help provided by bowling great Dennis Lillee and David Saker, the latter the Australian team's bowling coach who abruptly split with CA last week.

"David Saker has been great - just a really good thinker about the game and challenges us to think outside the box a little bit and give us an honest word every now and then," he said.

"But the main one for me probably is DK Lillee. I haven't actually worked with him too much over the last couple of years but I still pick up the phone and call him quite often and send him footage if things aren't 100 per cent right."

Off-spinner Lyon was the Test player of the year (25 votes), pipping Cummins (22) and Usman Khawaja (17). With a team-high 49 wickets at 34.8 through the voting period, Lyon did his best in a men's season marred by the ball-tampering scandal and major upheaval on the field and through coaching and executive ranks.

He was given six votes in the Test against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi and in the opening two matches against India, in Adelaide and Perth.

a person standing in front of a crowd: Alyssa Healy had a brilliant year with the bat and gloves. © Elesa Kurtz Alyssa Healy had a brilliant year with the bat and gloves.

Marcus Stoinis was the one-day international player of the year. The emerging all-rounder, who has enjoyed the backing of Shane Warne, was the only man to play in all 13 matches, polling 30 votes ahead of Finch (22) and Shaun Marsh (18).

It's been a bruising year for the Australians, who have tumbled to sixth on the ICC ODI rankings, but Stoinis is confident there will be improvement heading into the World Cup in England.

"I think we are getting better every game. I think we are really building a brand of cricket that we want to play leading into the World Cup, which is really exciting. Personally, I feel this is a start. I feel I have more to give and I love playing for Australia," he said.

All-rounder Glenn Maxwell was the Twenty20 player of the year (33 votes), ahead of the hard-hitting D'Arcy Short (30) and fast bowler Andrew Tye (29).

The Border Medal had been dominated by Steve Smith and David Warner over the past four years but their year-long suspensions for the ball-tampering scandal in Newlands meant there would be change. Before their bans were handed down, Warner had polled 14 votes and Smith 12.

In an intriguing aside, Cameron Bancroft, the man who ultimately scuffed the ball with sandpaper in Cape Town, was given three overall votes in that game - two from teammates and one by the media and umpires or match referee. He top scored in the first innings with 77 - the only man to pass 50 - in a total of 255, while he was behind only Warner in scoring 26 in a second-innings debacle of 107, as the tourists crashed to a 322-run loss. He had polled 18 votes before his nine-month ban was imposed.

Smith, Warner and Bancroft were not in attendance at the Crown Palladium gathering.

While it was a rugged year for the men's program, the women enjoyed considerable success, claiming the Twenty20 World Cup in the Caribbean.

Healy was central to this, and her overall dominance with the bat and strong glovework in the game's short forms was highlighted in the voting, for she was the T20 and ODI player of the year, ensuring she claimed the Belinda Clark award for the first time.

She polled the maximum six votes in two World Cup matches, against New Zealand and the West Indies, and was given five votes against Ireland.

The dynamic opener finished with 125 votes, ahead of Megan Schutt (81) and Ashleigh Gardner (71). Last year's winner Ellyse Perry was fourth (60 votes).

Healy, 28, said greater inner belief had helped her transform her game "knowing that I had done the work to contribute as well".

"I enjoyed a really good pre-season at home and got some different coaching angles and really enjoyed that," she said.

In other awards, Tasmanian Matthew Wade was the domestic player of the year, adding weight to his bid for a Test recall as a specialist batsman. He finished with 1509 runs at 45.73 in 39 innings through the voting period.

WA all-rounder Heather Graham was the women's domestic player of the year, with 481 runs at 30 and 32 wickets at 19.94.

Victorian batsman Will Pucovski, 21, was the Bradman young cricketer of the year, primarily on the back of his career-high 243 against WA and elevation into the Test squad for the series against Sri Lanka.

Victorian leg-spinner Georgia Wareham, who starred in Australia's T20 World Cup final against England, and finished the voting period with 24 wickets at 20.25, was the Betty Wilson young player of the year.

AWARD WINNERS Allan Border Medallist: Pat Cummins Belinda Clark award: Alyssa Healy Test player of the year: Nathan Lyon One-day international player of the year (men): Marcus Stoinis One-day international player of the year (women): Alyssa Healy T20 international player of the year (men): Glenn Maxwell T20 international player of the year (women): Alyssa Healy Domestic player of the year (men): Matthew Wade Domestic player of the year (women): Heather Graham Bradman young player of the year: Will Pucovski Betty Wilson young player of the year: Georgia Wareham Community champion award: Moises Henriques

Pictures: Australian Cricket Awards: Red carpet

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