TOM BANTON, SIMON HARMER AND BETH MORGAN TRIUMPH AT CRICKET WRITERS’ CLUB AWARDS
Essex and Somerset dominated the men’s county summer, sharing three trophies between them, and it should come as no surprise that a player from each was honoured in the awards made at the 2019 Cricket Writers’ Club annual lunch.
Tom Banton, the 20-year-old Somerset batsman who is set to feature on his first England tour after being selected for five T20Is in New Zealand, was named the CWC Young Cricketer of the Year after a breakthrough season.
Simon Harmer, meanwhile, won the County Championship Player of the Year award, in association with William Hill, after spearheading Essex’s second title in three years.
Middlesex’s Beth Morgan was the recipient of the CWC’s Women’s Cricket Award, in recognition of a record-breaking career that saw the former England international become the only player to feature in every season of the Women’s One-Day County Championship.
The Lord’s Taverners Disability Cricketer of the Year was named as Callum Flynn, after the allrounder’s starring role for England during the summer’s Physical Disability World Series.
Away from the playing field, author and publisher Stephen Chalke was honoured with the Peter Smith Award for “services to the presentation of cricket to the public”, in light of his extraordinary contribution to documenting the history of post-war cricket in England.
The CWC Book of the Year went to ‘Steve Smith’s Men’ (Hardie Grant) by Geoff Lemon.
All the awards were presented at the club’s annual lunch at the Marriott Grosvenor Square in London on Tuesday.
CWC Chair Alison Mitchell said: “All of our winners have excelled at what they do, and we congratulate them on their achievements. CWC is grateful for the continued support of our sponsors - William Hill, Lord’s Taverners and Fullers’ Brewery - who continue to help make these awards possible, recognising the very best among those who play the game and those who document it.
“The annual lunch is always eagerly anticipated by our members, none more so than in 2019, where the volume and quality of cricket coverage produced across all mediums has been stupendous. We’ve had an extraordinary season to look back on, including closely fought men’s and women’s domestic competitions and of course, the first ever ICC Men’s World Cup win for England.”
YOUNG CRICKETER OF THE YEAR
Banton was the clear winner in a ballot of the CWC’s 300-plus voting members. An attacking opener in white-ball cricket, his displays also caught the attention of the England selectors as he capped the season by winning a first call-up, for the winter tour of New Zealand.
His 454 runs in the Royal London Cup included two hundreds and a rattling 69 off 67 in the final as Somerset won their first trophy since 2005. He then finished as second-leading run-scorer in the Vitality Blast, the highlight being a 51-ball hundred in front of the Sky cameras against Kent at Taunton.
First presented in 1950, the Young Cricketer award, which by tradition is won just once in a career, is restricted to England-qualified players under the age of 23 at the start of the season.
Previous winners have amassed more than 2,500 Test caps between them.
“To be named as the Cricket Writers Young Cricketer of the Year is a great way to end what has been a very successful year for me,” said Banton.
“If anybody had told me that I was going to have the sort of season I have had back in March then I’m sure I would have bitten their arm off.
“I have surprised myself with how well I have done in Championship cricket. At the start of the season I thought that I was just going to target the white ball stuff and see how the other side went, but luckily for me things have gone well across all three formats.
“I feel very lucky and honoured to have won this award and will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of the many illustrious players who have gone before me.”
COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Somerset’s men may also have been celebrating a maiden Championship pennant were it not for Harmer. The former South Africa spinner once again proved himself among the foremost practitioners of his craft by taking 83 wickets during another stellar summer as Essex clinched the title with a rain-affected draw at Taunton in the final round.
That game saw Harmer claim his 10th five-for of the season, the most for a bowler in the Championship since Mushtaq Ahmed’s 11 in 2006. A few days earlier, Harmer had also captained Essex to their first T20 title, resulting in a memorable double for the county.
“It’s an absolute honour to be named the Cricket Writers Club Player of the Season,” said Harmer.
“Things have gone my way this year and I’ve managed to pick up wickets all season, but more than anything I’m just delighted that we’ve managed to have success as a team, as that’s the most important thing.
“It’s nice to win personal accolades, especially when you win titles, but if I’m being honest I’d give up everything to make sure we win those trophies and I’m so chuffed for everyone in the dressing room and at the Club that we’ve managed to put those trophies in the cabinet.”
WOMEN’S CRICKET AWARD
Chosen by a panel chaired by journalist and broadcaster Isabelle Westbury, this year’s award was given to Morgan after she extended her record for Women’s One-Day County Championship appearances. Morgan, who retired from England duty in 2013, has featured in every season of the Championship since its 1997 inception, and also continues to coach and mentor Middlesex players on a voluntary basis.
“There has been so many highs and lows in my career so far and I’m very lucky to have played alongside so many great people in my career,” said Morgan.
“There’s no resemblance at all in the women’s game from when I started compared to now and the opportunities now for the young girls are unbelievable.
“I love playing and I’d like to stay involved as long as I’ve got something to offer.”
LORD’S TAVERNERS DISABILITY CRICKETER OF THE YEAR
This award aims to showcase the development and contribution of members of the national disability squad. Flynn, who was diagnosed with bone cancer on his 14th birthday and now plays with a titanium knee, was selected by CWC partner the Lord’s Taverners after scoring 180 runs in six innings at an average of 45, while also picking up four wickets, as England reached the final of the Physical Disability World Series.
PETER SMITH AWARD
Named in honour of the late Daily Mail cricket correspondent, this discretionary award recognises those who have made a particularly notable contribution to the game. A panel chaired by journalist Tanya Aldred this year chose the man behind Fairfield Books, which has published 40 cricket titles since being established in the 1990s.
Chalke has written 17 of them himself, twice winning the CWC Book of Year award. In the words of Aldred, his work has helped “shine a light on a period of history, of cricketers and their techniques, the social mores and customs of the Championship” that would otherwise have been lost.
“I feel very embarrassed to receive this award and I can only receive it on behalf of all the wonderful people I’ve been able to work with,” said Chalke.
“Tom Cartwirght was probably my best subject and it was so sad that he died before the book came out,” said Chalke.
“He had a wonderful memory and some lovely things to say and a sharp turn of phrase.
“But I’ve been very lucky to work with so many great people.”
BOOK OF THE YEAR
The panel chaired by Richard Hobson, a former cricket reporter with The Times, chose a book covering the descent of Smith’s Australia from their victory in the 2017-18 Ashes to the ball-tampering scandal that erupted in Cape Town a few months later. Writer and broadcaster Lemon won praise for his “colourful, smart and urgent” retelling. “As an eye-witness account of a short but extraordinary cricketing period, ‘Steve Smith’s Men’ must rank alongside the celebrated works of Alan Ross and Rahul Bhattacharya,” said Hobson.