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Jonny Bairstow's prolific Test comeback has been recognised after he was named as the inaugural winner of the Bob Willis Trophy. Bairstow, who is expected to be out until the new year after fracturing his leg and dislocating his ankle while playing golf last month, was presented with the award at the Cricket Writers' Club's annual end-of-season lunch.
The Bob Willis Trophy, named after the former England fast bowler and broadcaster and sponsored by Smile Group Travel, was twice contested by the counties but is now given to England's player of the year - male or female - after a vote by the CWC's membership.
Jordan Cox was voted NV Play Young Cricketer of the Year after a strong season across formats for Kent and Oval Invincibles, while Nat Sciver won the Women's Cricket Award. Freya Kemp, the 17-year-old allrounder, was named Greater than Gin Emerging Cricketer of the Year, while Hampshire's Keith Barker won the LV= Insurance County Championship Player of the Year award. Josh Price was named Lord's Taverners Disability Cricketer of the Year.
Bairstow was enjoying career-best form, scoring six Test centuries during the October-September judging period, before suffering a freak leg break ahead of the third Test against South Africa. Speaking to the Telegraph, he elaborated on the extent of the injury, which included multiple fractures and ligament damage and required surgery to insert a metal plate, as well as the circumstances of the incident at Pannal Golf Club.
"There's a fairly steep slope that goes down to the tee box," he said. "I've played that course many times and because we were playing early morning, whether the course had been watered or it was dew, it was slippy.
"Normally when you slip you fall on your bum, which would have been fine as there's plenty of cushion in there. Except this time I tried to regain my balance, my left ankle turned right, dislocated and my weight went through my left lower leg. I heard it snap straight away.
"I took a couple of steps down then slipped. By the time I crumpled into a heap, I was three-quarters of the way down. It's all a blur, it happened so quickly.
"I yelped. Uncontrollable screams, the sort you hear on a rugby field. The adrenaline kicked in, and I knew I needed an ambulance. We rang the head physio at England straight away and asked where I needed to go and what I needed to do. The next three hours without painkillers were not too fun."
The injury ruled Bairstow out of England's T20 World Cup campaign and the Test tour of Pakistan in December. No return date has been set but he could miss the entire winter programme, which includes trips to South Africa, New Zealand and Bangladesh.
"Everything should heal, but it will take time," he said. "Naturally I am desperately disappointed. I have been quite upbeat for the last month, because it is such a freakish thing that's happened, it's difficult to get angry about. It's such a freakish thing that's occurred."
None of the other CWC award-winners required crutches. Cox claimed the prestigious Young Cricketer award, first presented in 1950, following his maiden call-up for the T20I squad that toured Pakistan. Although Cox has yet to win his first cap, he is keen to push for England selection across the formats.
"I would love to play all three formats," Cox said. "I feel like my game's very adaptable. Obviously Test cricket's the pinnacle, so to play for England in a Test match would be the pinnacle of my career if I do end up doing that."
Kemp, who was unable to attend due to the demands of school, became the second successive teenager to win the Emerging Cricketer award - after Alice Capsey - on the back of a summer in which she made international debuts in both limited-overs formats, as well as becoming the second-youngest woman to score a half-century for England.
Sciver was selected by the Women's Cricket Award panel after scoring two hundreds during England's run to the 50-over World Cup final, as well as a maiden Test century against South Africa in June. There was also an accolade for veteran seamer Katherine Brunt, who won the Peter Smith Award for "outstanding contribution to the presentation of cricket to the public".
Among those present for the CWC lunch at the London Marriott hotel were Price, of the England Deaf Squad, and author David Woodcock, whose book "Who Only Cricket Know", on the 1953-54 tour of the West Indies, was named Derek Hodgson Book of the Year.