Warner edges Smith for top Australian award in comeback year

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — David Warner beat Steve Smith by one vote to win the Australian cricketer of the year award on Monday in the first season back for both players from 12-month bans for the so-called Sandpapergate scandal that almost derailed their careers.

Warner won the Allan Border Medal with 194 votes, with former test captain Smith getting 193 votes and pace bowler Pat Cummins placing third with 185.

Warner and Smith — then the vice-captain and captain — were each suspended for a year by Cricket Australia and opener Cameron Bancroft was banned for nine months after South African broadcasters caught an attempt at ball tampering in a test match in Cape Town in March 2018. Bancroft was caught trying to scratch the surface of the ball to make it more favorable for Australia’s bowlers. An investigation found that Warner was involved in the plot and Smith didn't do enough to stop it.

In a country where the national cricket team is held in high esteem, it was considered inexcusable. None of the players challenged the severity of the bans, which were excessively harsher than anything ever imposed in international cricket for ball tampering.

Some critics thought the players should never represent Australia again, but all three have returned to international cricket. And Warner and Smith have returned to the top.

Smith played a major role in helping Australia retain the Ashes in England with 774 runs at an average of 110 from four tests. Warner, who scored 647 runs at an average of 71.88 in the World Cup in England but only tallied 95 runs in the Ashes, eventually found form in all three formats and scored a career-high 335 not out in a day-night test against Pakistan in November.

"I couldn't be any prouder to stand here and receive the award ... (and) to see the rest of the other guys doing so well," Warner said. "I really had a hunger and determination to come back and really put my foot forward ... so to have a summer like that really put a smile on my face."

Warner, who also won the Allan Border medals in 2016 and '17, won the Twenty20 player of the year award. Marnus Labuschagne was voted test cricketer of the year.

Ellyse Perry won the top women's award for the third time, picking up 161 votes to finish eight ahead of Alyssa Healy.


More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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