(Australian Associated Press)
An emotional David Warner has completed a stunning return to international cricket by claiming his third Allan Border Medal, finishing a single vote ahead of Steve Smith.
The pair were banned from representing Australia for a year after the 2018 sandpaper scandal, only returning in June to the national set-up.
Prolific performances in the World Cup and Australia’s home Test summer allowed Warner (194) to edge out Smith (193) in Monday night’s thrilling count at Melbourne’s Crown Palladium.
Last year’s medallist Pat Cummins (185) capped off a consistent 12 months across all formats to round out the top three.
Warner’s triumph goes with his AB medals from 2016 and 2017, with the three victories putting him in rare company, only one behind four-time winners Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke.
He became emotional when delivering his acceptance speech, especially when it came to mentioning his family and wife Candice.
“I had an absolutely horrendous Ashes. I didn’t really think I was a chance,” Warner told reporters.
“There were a few tough times there, with me and my wife (Candice) having two miscarriages – there were a lot of things going on in my life away from cricket that I had to work on.
“Not having cricket there, I had to work out what was going to be the best for me.”
Australian cricket’s other highest individual honour went to star women’s allrounder Ellyse Perry, who picked up her third Belinda Clark Award with 161 votes.
Perry’s dominant Ashes series skyrocketed her eight votes in front of last year’s winner Alyssa Healy (153), with Jess Jonassen third on 89.
“I’m incredibly flattered. You look at the contributions across the squad in the last 12 months, it’s been incredible from so many players,” Perry said.
“It’s always lovely to know you’ve had an impact.”
Warner also picked up the Twenty20 international honour, while Marnus Labuschange was rewarded for his stunning consistency since the Ashes Lord’s match to win his maiden Test player of the year award.
Limited-overs captain Aaron Finch (38 votes) finished ahead of axed batsman Usman Khawaja (33) for the ODI player of the year.
Warner’s success caps off a significant redemption tale, with the aggressive opening batsman banned by Cricket Australia from holding a leadership position after the Cape Town ball-tampering saga.
The 33-year-old plundered bowling attacks during the World Cup, finishing with 647 runs at an average of 71.88, one run behind Indian opener Rohit Sharma for the leading scorer of the tournament.
Warner struggled during Australia’s retention of the Ashes, before making up for it with a dominant home summer, highlighted by a record-breaking 335 not out against Pakistan at Adelaide Oval.
Smith was the opposite, as he was untouchable against England with 774 runs from only four Tests, but below his absolute best on return to Australian shores and failed to score a century across five Tests.
In other awards, former Australian batsman Shaun Marsh took out the men’s domestic player of the year and Wes Agar picked up the Bradman young cricketer.