Klinger and Hughes take out awards
Michael Klinger and Phillip Hughes, the two leading run scorers in the Sheffield Shield this season, have both been honoured at the Allan Border Medal night in Melbourne for their outstanding form. Klinger was named State Player of the Year and Hughes, 20, took home the Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year title.
Neither man was seriously challenged with Klinger collecting 60 votes, ahead of his nearest rivals Brett Geeves (18) and Chris Rogers (13). Hughes picked up 78 votes and was a comprehensive winner ahead of the Test fast bowler Peter Siddle with 39 votes and the South Australia opener Tom Cooper.
The success of Klinger, 28, justified his off-season decision to move from Victoria, where he had battled to hold down a full-time place for nearly a decade, to South Australia, where he was an automatic starter in all three formats. During the voting period, in which he played for both states, he scored 1334 runs at an average of 74.11 across the Sheffield Shield, FR Cup and Twenty20 tournaments, with a highest score of 255.
"(I'm) very excited, it's something I never would have expected three or four months ago when I moved from Victoria," Klinger said. "To be in this position now is unbelievable to be honest."
He is currently the leading scorer in the four-day competition with 1013 runs at 84.41. Second on the competition tally is Hughes, who has 891 runs at 74.25 and could consider himself unlucky not to have been in the top three for the State Player of the Year. Instead he triumphed in the young cricketer category, which was open to players under 24 who had not played more than ten first-class games before January 25, 2008.
He played 25 matches in all formats during the voting period and scored 1405 runs at 45.32, with a top score of 198. Hughes became the youngest player to make a century in a Pura Cup final when at 19 he posted 116 in the second innings of last year's decider, which helped New South Wales win the title.
He has gone from strength to strength this season and collected 151 and 82 not out in a Sheffield Shield match over the past week. He is one of the leading contenders to replace Matthew Hayden at the top of the Test order when the squad for the tour of South Africa is announced later this week and the captain Ricky Ponting said Hughes had done everything right.
"There was a Test team to be named to South Africa in a couple of days' time and there was a big game that finished a couple of days ago and it was important for Phil to make runs in that game and he's done that," Ponting said. "That is, I think, a great judge of character in a young player to be able to stand up when needed."
The Women's International Cricketer of the Year is usually strongly contested and this year was no different, with the allrounder Shelley Nitschke collecting the award for the first time. She triumphed by two points from Lisa Sthalekar, who has earned the honour in the past two years, while the wicketkeeper Jodie Fields was third.
Nitschke scored 256 runs at 42.67 in her six one-day internationals during the voting period and was Australia's third highest run scorer during that time, despite missing four matches in October and November due to injury. Nitschke, 32, was not at the awards ceremony as the team is currently playing New Zealand in the Rose Bowl Series.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo