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February 5, 2007
Chris Rogers and Ben Hilfenhaus, two players who could well be part of Australia's Test team within a year, were rewarded for their outstanding domestic performances at Allan Border Medal night in Melbourne. Rogers was named State Player of the Year and Hilfenhaus, who made his ODI debut last month, was the Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year.
Rogers beat his Western Australia team-mate Marcus North for his award, with Victoria's Brad Hodge completing the batting-heavy top three. Hilfenhaus, with 97 votes, was streets ahead of his nearest competitor, Cullen Bailey, the South Australia legspinner, on 11 votes. Ed Cowan, the New South Wales opener, came in third.
Rogers earned his title almost entirely based on Pura Cup performances. After a strong finish to the 2005-06 season, he opened this season with a cracking 279 against Victoria and during the voting period scored 1311 runs at 69.00. His four centuries and six half-centuries were enough to win him the award comfortably - with 48 votes he was 31 clear of North - despite his struggle to convert the same form to the limited-overs game.
On top of his domestic form in Australia, Rogers collected an impressive 1352 runs in the 2006 county season for Northamptonshire, including his first-class best of 319. Rogers is likely to vie with Phil Jaques, who was last year's State Player of the Year, to replace Justin Langer as Australia's new Test opener. He said with Australia playing no Tests until November, his challenge would be to stay in form until that time. "[A baggy-green is] ten months away at least," Rogers said. "It's one of those things where you have to be doing the right things at the right time and hopefully I will be."
Hilfenhaus' win completed a stunning emergence on the first-class scene, from bricklayer to international cricketer, having only made his debut for Tasmania last season. He was so quick to make an impact that he was the leading wicket-taker amongst all state players during the voting period, with 75 scalps across both forms of the game. Hilfenhaus, 23, has proven himself to be a leading exponent of genuine swing bowling - often said to be a dying art - and was mentioned by Tim Nielsen, Australia's incoming coach, as a player who could make a splash in the Australia team in the next couple of years.
In a tight finish to the Women's International Cricketer of the Year count, Lisa Sthalekar, the Australia vice-captain, edged out Karen Rolton, the skipper, by one vote. It was only the second time in six years Rolton has not won the title. Sthalekar starred in the only Test played during the voting period, making 72 and taking 5 for 30 as Australia hammered India by an innings and 4 runs at Adelaide. She also made 241 ODI runs at 34.43 claimed six wickets at 33.00.
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