Edwards leads her cricketers to another victory

England’s women cricketers land a shock win over their male counterparts as they are named SJA Team of the Year, while Jessica Ennis and Jenson Button poll the greatest number of votes to be named Sportswoman and Sportsman at our ceremony, reports IAN COLE

Charlotte Edwards and the England women’s cricket team upstaged their Ashes-winning male counterparts this afternoon, when they were named as British sport’s Team of the Year.

The awards, made on behalf of the SJA’s 700-plus members, were presented at the annual British Sports Awards lunch, sponsored by UK Sport and Sky Bet, and staged at The Brewery in London.

This year saw the 61st staging of these prestigious awards ” the oldest of their type ” but for Edwards’ England team to garner more votes than the men’s team represents one of the biggest surprises in that time.

During the year the England women won the World Cup and the World Twenty20 and retained the Ashes, with batsman Claire Taylor named Player of the Tournament in both ” a feat which resulted in her being the first woman named as one of Wisden’s five Cricketers of the Year.

The SJA Team of the Year Award capped off a tremendous couple of days for English women’s cricket: on Tuesday evening at the UK Coaching Awards, Mark Lane, the women’s team’s coach, was named UK coach of the year and picked up the high performance coach of the year prize.

A women’s team – the world record-setting Great Britain 4×800 metres quartet which included Lillian Board – won the SJA’s Team of the Year prize when it was introduced 39 years ago, but the 2009 England cricketers are the first women’s team to lift the award since their World Cup-winning predecessors in 1993.

In the other prestigious awards also voted by the Association’s membership, Jessica Ennis, the 23-year-old Sheffield athlete who won the heptathlon at the world championships in Berlin in August, topped the poll for Sportswoman of the Year, while Jenson Button, who clinched the Formula 1 world drivers’ championship for the Brawn team, was voted Sportsman of the Year.

Ennis’s triumph on track and field in Berlin came after she missed more than a year, and the Beijing Olympics, through career-threatening injury. She succeeds 2008 winner Rebecca Adlington as Sportswoman of the Year, and follows a long line of fellow athletes to have won the prize, the most recent being Paula Radcliffe when she won the marathon world title in 2005.

After 30 years in which no motor racing driver managed to win the SJA Sportsman of the Year award, Button becomes the second in three years to take the top honour, following his soon-to-be team mate Lewis Hamilton’s win in 2007.

Due to prior commitments, Button was unable to attend the award ceremony today, but Jim Rosenthal, the compere for the event, introduced to the 350-strong guests at The Brewery a recorded message from the driver as he accepted the famous old trophy.

Runner-up to Button in the Sportsman of the Year poll was England cricket captain Andrew Strauss, with world champion triple jumper Phillips Idowu beating Tour de France cyclist Mark Cavendish for third in SJA members’ votes.

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Cricketer Taylor’s fabulous year saw her voted third in the Sportswoman category, with world champion gymnast Beth Tweddle coming in second behind Ennis.

Among the other awards presented today, the Bill McGowran Trophy for the disabled sports personality – the longest established of its kind, first awarded in 1963 – was shared by swimmer Eleanor Simmonds and yachtswoman Hilary Lister.

This year Simmonds added three European titles and a world short-course title to the Olympic gold she won in Beijing, while Lister became the first disabled woman to sail around Britain.

The award for an outstanding performance went to Berlin winner Phillips Idowu, while the trophy for the outstanding contribution to British sport off the field of play was presented jointly to Phil Kimberley and David Faulkner for their work in steering England’s hockey men to a stunning victory over Germany in the final of the European Championship.

Sponsors UK Sport gave their award to world triathlon champion Alistair Brownlee, who dominated his sport in 2009, winning five races in the world championship series, including the final.

The Committee Award went to British Gymnastics, recognising not only the impressive staging of the world championships at the O2 Arena, a 2012 Olympic venue, but also the progress made by a sport which is now established as a medal-winning force on the world stage.

Sir Michael Parkinson’s SJA President’s Award went to showjumper Ellen Whitaker.

□ UK Sport is the longest standing lead sponsor of the Sports Journalists’ Association, with a partnership that goes back more than a decade. Sky Bet is the SJA’s newest partner, the sponsorship being announced in October 2008.

Both partners support the SJA’s two prestigious annual awards events, including the presentation of a special UK Sport Award for excellence at the SJA’s Annual Sports Awards and the sports betting writer of the year at the SJA’s British Sports Journalism Awards.

The SJA Annual Sports Awards are the longest established of their kind in the United Kingdom, having been first staged in 1949.

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