Bairstow’s year to remember recognised by Cricket Writers’

By Cricket Writers’ Club

Jonny Bairstow was the inaugural winner of the Bob Willis Trophy – introduced this year to mark England’s player of the year, male or female – while there was recognition for talent old and new in the Cricket Writers’ Club 2022 awards.

Jordan Cox collected the NV Play Young Cricketer of the Year award after an impressive summer across formats for Kent and Oval Invincibles, which culminated in a first England call-up for the tour to Pakistan, while 17-year-old all-rounder Freya Kemp was named the Greater Than Gin Emerging Cricketer of the Year, having made international debuts in both limited-overs formats on the back of strong performances for Southern Vipers and Southern Brave.

The JM Finn Women’s Cricket Award went to Nat Sciver, after an indomitable year with the bat, and it will be a crowded mantelpiece at home after her wife Katherine Brunt picked up the Peter Smith Award for outstanding contribution to the presentation of cricket to the public, marking the longevity and success of her career. Hampshire veteran Keith Barker was voted LV= Insurance County Championship Player of the Year and Josh Price from the England Deaf Squad won the Lord’s Taverners Disability Cricketer of the Year award.

The Derek Hodgson Book Award went to David Woodhouse for “Who Only Cricket Know” – completing a sweep of the major cricket book prizes.

All awards were presented at the Cricket Writers’ Club Annual Lunch at the London Marriott Hotel on Tuesday, October 4.

Bob Willis Trophy for England Player of the Year, sponsored by Smile Group Travel – Jonny Bairstow

Bairstow, who told CWC he’ll be out injured until 2023, became the first recipient of the Bob Willis Trophy, named after the legendary former England fast bowler and broadcaster, following his spectacular return to form in Test whites during the October-September judging period.

One of the few players to shine during another ill-fated Ashes tour, his hundred helping to avert defeat at the SCG, Bairstow’s winter also included a century in Antigua – but it was during the home summer, under new head coach Brendon McCullum, that he really took flight. Four hundreds flowed across five innings against New Zealand and India, as Bairstow became the standard-bearer for “Bazball”; a 77-ball blitz at Trent Bridge fell narrowly shy of eclipsing Gilbert Jessop’s 120-year-old England record for the fastest Test century, while twin tons versus India at Edgbaston helped lead his side to a record fourth-innings chase.

“It’s one of those summers that we’ll always remember,” Bairstow said. “I remember the 2005 Ashes summer very, very fondly, and I’m hopeful that we as a group of people have inspired the next generation – or even people that haven’t played the game of cricket who have flipped on – and we’ve entertained them.

“With Baz [McCullum] and Ben [Stokes] the messaging has been fantastic,” he added. “I think it’s an empowerment thing, and a belief that’s instilled within the player and trying to understand how to get the best out of that. I hadn’t worked with Brendan before [but] you can see that he understands people and he gets people. So that’s a big plus in building a relationship with a coach.”

CWC JM Finn Women’s Cricket Award – Natalie Sciver

Although it came on the losing side, Sciver’s unbeaten 148 from 145 balls in Christchurch in April was one of the great World Cup final knocks. During the English summer, she scored a maiden Test hundred against South Africa and, having earlier stepped in to captain England during their run to the Commonwealth Games semi-finals, produced one of the innings of the Hundred – hitting Tahlia McGrath for three consecutive sixes as Trent Rockets fell narrowly short of winning their eliminator against Southern Brave.

“It’s been such a massive year with the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games going on,” Sciver said. “So this award means a lot to me.”

“This year’s winner has had an outstanding year, cementing her reputation as one of the best all-rounders in the world,” panel chair, Raf Nicholson, said. “It’s been difficult and exhausting at times; but in a very busy year for women’s cricket, Nat Sciver has shone.”

CWC NV Play Young Cricketer of the Year – Jordan Cox

Jordan Cox collected one of the game’s most-established awards after being voted NV Play Young Cricketer of the Year by the CWC membership.

First presented in 1950, the Young Cricketer of the Year award, which by tradition is won just once in a career, is restricted to England-qualified players under the age of 23 at the start of the season. Previous winners have amassed more than 2,500 Test caps between them.

Cox stood out from his peers by combining prolific run-scoring in the County Championship, in which he made 917 at 45.85, with a flair for the shorter formats. For Kent, although they could not repeat their 2021 Blast success, his 365 runs included a career-best 94 against Somerset at Taunton, while for Invincibles in the Hundred Cox averaged 38.20 with a strike rate of 143.60 – good enough to get him selected for the England tour of Pakistan.

Although he has yet to win his first cap, he has his sights firmly set on higher honours: “I would love to play all three formats,” he 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.”

Cox became the sixth Kent player to win the young cricketer award, following in the illustrious footsteps of Colin Cowdrey, Alan Knott, Derek Underwood, Graham Dilley and his team-mate, the 2020 winner, Zak Crawley. “It’s an absolutely amazing award and I’m really grateful,” Cox said. “It’s amazing to see and hear all those names.”

CWC LV Insurance County Championship Player of the Year – Keith Barker

Barker narrowly missed out on adding another Championship winner’s medal to the one he claimed with Warwickshire in 2012, but his all-round performances played a large part in keeping Hampshire in the title race until the penultimate round.

His haul of 52 wickets at 22.38 was only bettered by six bowlers in either division, and the 35-year-old also made vital contributions with the bat, scoring 595 runs at 29.75.

“I think something just clicked where I’ve gathered different types of skills in different situations, and they’ve just helped me to perform,” he said. “It’s been a tough, tough year, but I’ve just had a bit more confidence in my bowling, and it’s just gone really well.

“The unit and the squad we have at Hampshire and the environment has been a huge plus. And I really do think that’s helped us get to where we are we. We chased Surrey for as long as we could, unfortunately couldn’t get close enough. Hopefully next year it’s us that gets the trophy in the four-day stuff. But I’m just happy to be playing and I’ll just keep pushing myself for as long as I can.”

CWC Greater Than Gin Emerging Cricketer of the Year – Freya Kemp

Like last year’s winner, Alice Capsey, Kemp broke into the England set-up while still a schoolgirl. The left- arm seamer was picked for a T20I debut ahead of the Commonwealth Games after starring for Southern Vipers in the Charlotte Edwards Cup, and then played every game in the Hundred for runners-up, Southern Brave.

Having initially impressed with her left-arm swing bowling, Kemp then became the second-youngest woman – after Sarah Taylor – to score an international fifty for England, against India in September, going on to win her ODI cap later that month.

“It was totally unexpected, the season I’ve had, so yeah, it’s been really good,” Kemp said. “Playing at the regional domestic competition before I think really helped.”

Kemp has also had to juggle school work with forging a professional cricket career. “Yeah, it has been difficult if I’m honest,” she explained. “I do a bit of study when there’s downtime. I try and go on my laptop or try and catch up a bit more, but I try not to think about it too much and then worry about it at a later stage.”

“But my school has been really good and they’ve been really understanding. I’ve been back for a couple of days now and they’ve been really helpful and I’ve tried to catch up as much as possible.”

CWC Peter Smith Award – Katherine Brunt

This award recognises outstanding contribution to the presentation of cricket to the public. The 37-year-old Brunt announced her retirement from Test cricket this summer, but she continues to wear an England shirt with palpable pride almost two decades on from her debut. Her country’s leading wicket-taker in both limited- overs formats, she fell short of winning a Commonwealth Games medal but has her sights set on a sixth T20 World Cup.

The Panel, chaired by Tanya Aldred said: “In 18 years of playing international cricket, Katherine Brunt has never given less than her all – and England have reaped the rewards. Across a phenomenal career, spanning the amateur and professional eras, she has sped in, and fired out, more than 300 wickets, and cracked nearly 2000 runs for her country, winning three Ashes series and three World Cups. But beyond the records and the silverware, she has been an unrelenting champion for the women’s game and a role model who has inspired many young girls to pick up a bat and ball. Through her skill, tenacity and the sheer force of her personality, she must be regarded as one of the most influential English cricketers of her era.”

Brunt said, “It’s a huge honour to receive this Peter Smith Award, and I understand I’m the first female to have ever won it. Thank you for the kind words about me and my career, and the impact I’ve had on the game.”

CWC Derek Hodgson Book Award – David Woodhouse for “Who Only Cricket Know”

Author David Woodhouse described winning the CWC book award as a “great thrill”, having already been selected as Wisden Book of the Year 2021, Cricket Society and MCC Book of the Year, and Sunday Times Cricket Book of the Year 2022.

“It’s a cliché that is trotted out at PFA Player of the Year awards, but it genuinely is a tremendous thrill to be recognised by your peers,” Woodhouse said. “I was a reader of the Independent, so Derek Hodgson is a person who means a lot to me, and I thought it was a tremendously strong shortlist. To manage to do a clean sweep of the major cricket awards is a great thrill. It obviously needed the stars to align.”

Paul Edwards, the panel chair, said: “Once again, the committee responsible for drawing up the shortlist for the Derek Hodgson Book Award and deciding the eventual winner were impressed with the quality of the work submitted for their consideration. Each of the ten books on our rather long list is worth buying and we are pleased to give them all a little more publicity. The list also reveals a pleasing originality of approach, a quality that is particularly in evidence in ‘Being Geoffrey Boycott’ by Geoffrey Boycott and Jon Hotten, the book that we have ‘highly commended’.

“However, after careful consideration, we decided the main award should go to ‘Who Only Cricket Know’ by David Woodhouse. David’s book works immensely well on many levels. It is a work of scrupulous scholarship and also a careful analysis of one of the most controversial tours in the history of the game. In addition, it offers many subtle studies of the tourists’ contrasting personalities and an examination of Caribbean society at a time of rapid change. David blends all of this together in masterly fashion and we are rather proud to join other judges of other awards in their high estimation of his book.”

Lord’s Taverners Disability Cricketer of the Year – Josh Price

In a year when England’s Deaf teams won their first tour to Australia in 11 years, Price played a key role in Ashes success – featuring in all eight matches and ending with an average of 32 with the bat, which included a match-winning knock of 83 in an opening ODI victory in Brisbane. He also took 11 wickets in the series and captained The Hawks in this year’s inaugural Disability Premier League.

“I feel honoured to be recognised with this award, but the most satisfying thing was beating Australia down under with the squad and all the staff, that was the best feeling,” said Price, who is a PE teacher at a London school.

“The exposure of disability cricket is important and it’s going in the right direction. I’ve only been part of the deaf squad for a couple of years, and it has brought me so much and I feel lucky to be part of it. None of us [in the England disability squads] would be playing cricket if we didn’t have that support at a young age and there are programmes out there that can introduce cricket to people’s lives.

“I’ve taught PE in schools so I understand that sometimes the disability curriculum can be different to mainstream school curriculum, so it’s great that sports like cricket are adapting to meet certain disabilities so everyone can access it and the outcomes to that will be fantastic and we need to keep moving forward.”