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Johnson surges to Border Medal

Daniel Brettig

January 20, 2014

Comments: 22 | Text size: A | A
'I didn't expect to win tonight' - Johnson

Mitchell Johnson swooped on the Allan Border Medal almost as dramatically as he laid waste to England this summer, surging to win Australian cricket's highest honour through a string of shattering performances during the home Ashes sweep that ended a previously traumatic 2013 on the most triumphant note possible.

Having sat out of Australia's Test team for most of the year, even being suspended alongside Shane Watson, James Pattinson and Usman Khawaja during the hellish Test tour of India, Johnson's upward trend of influence reached a crescendo in the home Tests. Those performances took Johnson past the captain Michael Clarke, who had been widely expected to claim his fifth Border Medal and third in a row.

Instead, Clarke had to be content with the Test Player of the Year award, won from the highly promising Steve Smith. But he did not seem to mind handing over the garlands to Johnson, the fast bowler who added rare venom to the bowling attack and gave Australia the kind of firepower that has characterised so many victorious teams in the past.

"It has been an amazing journey," Johnson said. "Coming back from injury and having a lot of doubters out there, but I knew in my own heart if I got another chance I could make the most of it. It's very emotional for me to be standing up here."

Mitchell Johnson poses after winning the Allan Border Medal, Sydney, January 20, 2014
Mitchell Johnson's 37 wickets during the Ashes paved the way for Australia's 5-0 whitewash of England © Getty Images

The result rather summed up a year in which the team explored subterranean depths in India and England before gathering themselves under the new coach Darren Lehmann and slowly establishing a way forward. Johnson showed himself to be ready for further Test combat with limited overs spells in England and ODI matches in India, before crashing through Alastair Cook's tourists at the Gabba and beyond.

Johnson's emergence in time for the Ashes in Australia, and the desperately poor displays by the Test team up to that point, can be highlighted by the fact that entering the five Tests against England at home, Clarke led the Border Medal standings from George Bailey, who at that point, for all his limited overs skill and poise, had not even made his five-day debut. Votes for the Medal are weighted heavily towards Test matches.

Bailey, who has had to deal with the loss of his Test spot for the forthcoming tour of South Africa, had the consolation of claiming the ODI player of the year award, a fitting recognition of his consistency across series against the West Indies, England and India before stumbling as a Test batsman in the Ashes.

"It's been incredible," Bailey said of his year. "It's disappointing not to be going to South Africa and I think I have come to terms with that. If you are going to play five Tests over a summer you would pick the five we played, it's been extraordinary."

Aaron Finch was handed the award for Twenty20 player of the year, largely on the strength of his stunning 156 from 63 balls against England at Southampton. That world record innings not only made Finch a worldwide T20 name but also helped launch an increasingly successful limited overs career that has him in poll position to open the batting alongside David Warner at next year's 50-over World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Meg Lanning, meanwhile, was handed the Belinda Clarke Medal, awarded to the pre-eminent women's cricketer in the land. Lanning's Clark Medal was a reward for consistency, her run of scores across three formats in an Ashes year sneaking her ahead of Erin Osborne in the voting of her peers and the media. Lanning was particularly effective in England, top scoring for the Southern Stars no fewer than three times.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by Shaggy076 on (January 21, 2014, 22:36 GMT)

Chris_Howard; We won by so far against England because there batting was destroyed. Haddin was exceptional but JOhnson was a couple classes above that. If Haddin didn't play we would still have won as we won the majority of tests by a couple hundred runs with second winnings in hand and because there batsman were completely shot when facing Mitch. Im not sure Johnson should have won but to argue on the basis of Haddin over Johnson in the last series is ludicrous.

Posted by   on (January 21, 2014, 2:04 GMT)

Congrats Mitch, you were the difference between the 2 sides and if you had gone to England then England would not have won a single game last year. To anyone who still says you are not as amazing as you are ..... they are blind. You are the best bowler in Australia and have always been so, even when wayward you still were a impact bowler. I hope you put those South Africans in there place, we are behind you all the way and I'm a kiwi too .... Congratulations to the other winners, you all deserved the awards you got !

Posted by brisCricFan on (January 21, 2014, 0:55 GMT)

@xtrafalgarx ; no, he only played in 6 during the voting period which starts in February 2013... the Sri Lanka matches were played in January and counted towards last years AB Medal. He played the one test in India where he bowled well in a losing cause without any real success, missed selection in England, then came back home for the return series.

As for Clarke, I think from memory he scored 2 centuries on the India tour (first two matches - or first and third?) but I agree this was not one of his crowning years... he was better than the other batsmen but wasn't really pushed that hard by anyone else in the top 6. Haddin, like Johnson would have benefitted from getting a start on the Inda tour.

I noticed too that given Johnsons lack of matches, he ended up 5th in the voting and only a few votes away from taking the Test Player which was remarkable given he played in less than half the qualifying matches. Personally I thought Ryan Harris deserved a far better polling.

Posted by bren19 on (January 21, 2014, 0:34 GMT)

Is this a reflection of the fact that Johnson achieved more in 5 tests this year than the rest did in 13 or should we look at this as the encouragement award? "We really need you to keep firing Mitch so have a trophy to keep you motivated." To be honest, I would believe both.

Posted by Moppa on (January 21, 2014, 0:05 GMT)

For the benefit of those overseas or who didn't see the local TV coverage, I was impressed by George Bailey's eloquence when accepting the ODI award, and his cheery acceptance of the news that he's not touring South Africa. Personally I felt he couldn't tour due to being found out in the Ashes series, but he no doubt brings lots to the dressing room and limited overs teams, and... what a great guy!

Posted by Shaggy076 on (January 20, 2014, 22:24 GMT)

Xtrafalgarx; The SL series was in last years award not this one. It is not a calendar year award otherwise the Sydney Ashes test wouldn't have counted. However, in the period he played in 6 out of 14 tests. I think the tests should be weighted more highly, the test only players are going to struggle as the one day players also play T20 and get more points as showed by Faulkner position compared to Lyon, Harris, S Smith and Siddle.

Posted by Chris_Howard on (January 20, 2014, 22:16 GMT)

@Markdal, totally agree.

If Mitch's Test matches so heavily influenced the result, why didn't he get Test Player?

And where was Brad Haddin? He excelled in the 10 Ashes Tests.

As a bowler, Johnson was replaceable - we have the stocks. As a batsmen, Haddin was irreplaceable and we would have lost the Ashes without him.

These cricket awards are a bit of farce. There's too small a pool of players and games to make it credible.

Posted by MinusZero on (January 20, 2014, 22:14 GMT)

South Africa is a different prospect. Isnt that where Mitch got injured/dropped last time?

Posted by   on (January 20, 2014, 16:05 GMT)

I'm with you's quite bewildering

Posted by sachinssnn on (January 20, 2014, 15:57 GMT)

looking forward to SA tour. moustache mitch rocked the English, wait & see if he can do the same for SA. This would be the epic battle mitch vs dale WOW

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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