1 July 2009
Given the Proteas’ outstanding run of form over the past year, it came as no surprise when captain Graeme Smith was named Cricketer and Test Cricketer of the Year at the 2009 South African Cricket Awards in Johannesburg on Tuesday evening.
Smith was at the helm during a historic test run for the national team. They beat England in England for the first time since 1965 and ended Australia’s unbeaten run on home soil that had stood since 1992/93 when they recorded their first ever series victory Down Under.
Although he was injured for much of the one-day international action, Smith still played a role in helping the Proteas take over as the number-one ranked team in ODIs. He also led South Africa to the semi-finals of the ICC World Twenty on the back of a record number of victories in the shortest form of the international game.
His guts and determination were most evident in test cricket. Besides leading South Africa to their historic victories, he was a leading contributor with the bat, making 950 runs at an average of 63.33, with four centuries.
Massively important innings
He played massivey important innings in both series wins, which helped the Proteas to victory. Against Australia, in the first test in Perth, South Africa required a massive 414 to win. If they achieved it, it would be the second highest successful run chase in test history. Smith provided an invaluable 108 at the top of the order to set his team on the right track and they ultimately took victory in style by six wickets.
In England, in the third test at Birmingham, the South African skipper played a crucial innings on a testing track to steer the Proteas to a five-wicket victory. Previously the highest successful fourth innings run chase at Edgbaston had been only 208, but Smith helped SA to victory, on 283 for 5, with one of the finest innings of his career.
He made an undefeated 154, while the next highest South African score Mark Boucher’s 45 not out. It was a positive performance that contained no recklessness, only brutal effectiveness.
Maybe, however, the defining moment of Smith’s year came in the losing third test against Australia in Sydney after the series had already been won. With the Proteas struggling to save the match, Smith walked out to bat at number 11 with a broken hand and serious elbow injury that would leave him sidelined for some time.
He survived for 27 balls and didn’t manage to save the test for his team, but it was the kind of courage that even the Australians could only marvel at. It also marked a turning point in the perceptions of many South Africans about their national captain.
Indeed, South Africa’s success over the past 12 months had a lot to do with the maturing of Smith as a captain. Previously a brash in-your-face type, he showed a more diplomatic side off the field which, combined with a steely determination and excellent contributions with the bat and as a captain, helped inspire and lift the Proteas to greater heights.
Today, most experts agree that South Africa boasts the best all-round team in all forms of the game and South Africa’s Cricketer of the Year played an integral role in helping the side get there.
Gerald Majola, CEO of Cricket South Africa, commented: “It is most fitting that the SA Cricketer of the Year award goes to Graeme Smith, who led the Proteas to their best season ever.”
One-Day Cricketer of the Year
AB de Villiers was named South Africa’s One-Day Cricketer of the Year. A hugely-talented player, he continued to develop his game and one would venture that he is yet to reach his potential, even though he has become one of the world’s leading batsmen.
In 18 one-day internationals, he averaged 43.15 and demonstrated the ability to destroy even the best of bowling attacks. Like Smith, his increased maturity was best viewed in the cauldron of test match cricket. In the remarkable run chase in Perth, he finished unbeaten on 106 which, together with his 63 in the first innings, won him the man of the match award.
Not that it was applicable to his award, but later in the year, De Villiers showed his ability in the Indian Premier League among many of the world’s leading players. He was the third highest run scorer, second in the averages among batsmen with more than 200 runs, and the scorer of one of only two centuries in the tournament.
Pro20 Cricketer of the Year
The Pro20 Cricketer of the Year award went to JP Duminy, who burst onto the international scene with performances of such brilliance that he almost immediately became an internationally recognised star of the game.
Due to an injury to Ashwell Prince, Duminy was drafted into the South African team for the first test against Australia. After making only one in his first innings, he contributed an assured unbeaten 50 as he and De Villiers shared an unbroken stand of 111 to take the Proteas to victory.
In the second test in Melbourne, Duminy made the world sit up and take notice with an outstanding innings that belied his inexperience. His sensational knock of 166 helped South Africa – replying to Australia’s 394 all out -recover from 184 for 7 to 459 all out, giving them a first innings lead of 65 runs.
South Africa lost the first two Twenty20 internationals Duminy was a part of, but he could not be blamed. In a loss to Australia, in which South Africa managed only 130 all out, Duminy contributed 78, with the next highest score a mere 12. In the second T20 international, also a defeat, he weighed in with the top score of 69 not out.
Duminy’s remarkable ascension into the elite of world cricket was brought to the fore when he was picked up by the Mumbai Indians for the Indian Premier League. He commanded one of the highest prices in the IPL auction – $900 000 – but he proved to be worth the money. His five fifties tied him with Matthew Hayden as the leading half-century maker and he was the sixth highest run scorer.
Newcomer of the Year
The Newcomer of the Year award went to Roelof van der Merwe who, like Duminy, took to the international game like a duck to water. Together with Duminy and Wayne Parnell, Van der Merwe was the poster boy for the emerging generation of South African cricket – a generation that shows the game is in rude health in the Rainbow Nation.
Thrown into the fray against Australia, the most abrasive of opponents, Van der Merwe excelled in his Twenty20 debut at his home ground, SuperSport Park in Centurion. He blasted 48 off only 30 balls with four sixes and also captured 1 for 30 in four overs with the ball to win the man of the match award.
At the recent ICC World Twenty in England, he was South Africa’s leading wicket-taker, and one of the leading wicket-takers in the tournament. He was also one of the most economical bowlers of all, conceding only 5.62 runs per over – excellent in the T20 game.
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