James Anderson has been named England Cricketer of the Year for 2011/12. Anderson, the 29-year-old swing bowler, has taken 46 wickets in 11 Tests from the start of the 2011 English season and has risen to No. 3 in the ICC Test bowling rankings. He also played a key role in England's defeat of India - a result that confirmed England as the No. 1 rated Test side - and proved his worth in all conditions with excellent performances in the UAE and Sri Lanka.
Anderson, who claimed his 250th Test wicket and rose to fifth on the list of England's all-time Test wicket-takers during the period, beat off competition from fellow nominees Stuart Broad and Alastair Cook to win the award which is decided by votes from members of the cricket media. Charlotte Edwards was named England Women's Cricketer of the Year, while Daniel Bell-Drummond won the England Development Programme Cricketer of the Year and Callum Rigby won the England Disability Cricketer of the Year award.
"It's an amazing achievement and I'm really proud of it," Anderson said. "There have been so many successful individual performances over the last year so it's nice to be recognised for performing well over the last 12 months.
"The last two years I've shown what I can actually do at this level. It's been a frustrating eight years before that - a bit up and down - but I've been really pleased with my performance in the last two years. The challenge is to try to keep improving and push on."
Anderson claimed two five-wicket hauls in Test cricket over the 12-month period: 5 for 65 against India at Lord's and 5 for 72 against Sri Lanka in Galle. Perhaps more impressively, he showed he now has the skills to adapt to any conditions with a series of fine performances in the UAE and Sri Lanka. It is hard to recall a single poor spell from him on either tour.
"Knowing my game has been the biggest thing," Anderson said, explaining his consistency over the last couple of years. "Knowing that I can bowl a ball on a length for a period of time is what all bowlers strive for and is something that was missing from my game for the first part of my career. Being able to do it game after game is something I've been able to develop really well over the past couple of years.
"I've always been able to swing the ball but I've added different skills throughout my career, and I think being able to bowl in all sorts of conditions has been a problem - not just for me, but for a lot of English bowlers over the years when we've gone away with unfamiliar conditions, we've struggled with that. But I think now all of the bowlers in this group have got good skills to take away from us, and that's really exciting when we've got tours of India and places like that coming up."
Anderson insisted he had no thoughts about overtaking Ian Botham's record as England's leading wicket taker - Botham claimed 383 Test wickets - but said he hoped he could continue playing for many years to come.
"If I maintain the same work ethic that I have done throughout my career, I don't see why I can't keep this form up for a good few years," Anderson said. "I feel fit and strong and I think the fitness is probably going to play the biggest part in how long I keep playing for.
"I keep getting reminded about the record. It's nice to be up there, and having taken 250-plus Test wickets is an amazing achievement for me and I'm really proud of that. But I just want to stay on the field and play games for England. When I sit down at the end of my career, I can look back on 500-600 wickets hopefully."
Although the award is meant to recognise "outstanding performances in all formats of international cricket over the past year" it is safe to conclude that Anderson won for his Test form. He has not played international T20 cricket in the period and, though his ODI form improved steadily after a disappointing World Cup in early 2011, he is no longer an automatic selection in that format.
"I'd love to be with England involved in all three formats," he said. "It's not been the case in the last couple of years but I was in the squad for the last World Cup and I'd love to get into the side. I'm in a position now where I've got to knock on the door of that team, so if I get the chance to play any T20 cricket for Lancashire this year I've got to use that to try to put pressure on the guys who are in the team already. I've just got to wait for a chance to arise."
Cook might consider himself unfortunate not to have won. Cook not only scored three ODI centuries (two against Pakistan and one against Sri Lanka) and averaged 54.29 over the period but he grew in stature as the ODI captain and led England to series victories over both World Cup finalists - India and Sri Lanka - as well as a rare victory in overseas conditions in Pakistan. His Test form was less consistent, but he still averaged 55.47 over the year, with a career-best 294 against India and two centuries against Sri Lanka the highlights.
Broad, meanwhile, averaged 31.41 with the bat and 23.04 with the ball in Tests over the 12-month period. He is also the only one of the three shortlisted candidates currently playing in all three formats. But he did enjoy some consolation as he won the Fans' Moment of the Year Award, voted for by members of ECB's Twelfth Man fan community, for his hat-trick against India in last summer's Trent Bridge Test.