Johnson surges to Border Medal
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."
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