Sophie Devine and Devon Conway made it a Wellington double by taking out the Super Smash Player of the Year titles on the opening day of the 2020 New Zealand Cricket Awards.
The awards, presented electronically for the first time due to Covid-19 restrictions and recognising the star performers and servants of the 2019-20 season, also honoured veteran cricket commentator Ian Smith with the prestigious Bert Sutcliffe Medal for Outstanding Services to Cricket.
The WHITE FERNS captain Devine spearheaded the Blaze’s run to their third straight T20 title with 365 runs and 12 wickets, topping the six-hitting table (25) and strike-rate charts (184.5) in both the men’s and women’s competitions.
“It was a fantastic effort from the team,” reflected Devine.
“We knew there was the pressure of expectation on us and to go through the season unbeaten was really satisfying.
“It was a pleasing season for me personally. I don’t set goals to hit the most sixes but that’s certainly my style of play and from a captaincy point of view I think it’s good to lead from the front and be aggressive.
“Any time you get to score a century is special and certainly to do it in a T20 was pretty cool.”
Devine said the current lockdown restrictions were limiting but that all the players were doing their best to prepare and train as well they could.
“Everyone’s health has to come first at the moment so as players it’s about keeping ourselves physically and mentally ready to go for whenever the moment may come when we can play again.”
The Blaze T20 title winning exploits were backed up on the same day at the Basin Reserve by their male counterparts the Firebirds, who downed the Auckland Aces by 22 runs to seal a capital city double.
As he had done all season, left-hand opening batsman Devon Conway led the way in the final, top-scoring for his side as he finished the competition with a commanding total of 543 runs at an average of 67, including a century against the Otago Volts.
“I really enjoyed batting up the order this year,” said Conway.
“T20 can be a bit hit and miss at times, but we managed to put together a really consistent campaign full of memories I’ll cherish.
“The final was such a special day. To see all the Wellington people who came out and braved the weather to be at the Basin Reserve to watch both the Blaze and the Firebirds claim victory was just awesome.”
Former New Zealand wicket-keeper turned broadcaster Ian Smith was also honoured on day one of the New Zealand Cricket Awards, presented (virtually) the Bert Sutcliffe Medal for Outstanding Services to Cricket by NZC Chairman Greg Barclay.
Smith played 63 Tests and 98 ODIs for his country, but it’s perhaps behind the microphone that he has made his greatest impact – calling in many of New Zealand’s greatest cricket moments of the past two decades and commentating on a whopping 112 Tests at home.
“I’m so grateful,” Smith said via video call from his home in the Hawkes Bay.
“It makes me quite emotional actually to think about joining the list of people who have already won this award.
“The playing aspect was the realisation of a dream. I fondly remember the times keeping to Sir Richard Hadlee, watching Martin Crowe bat sides into submission and all the other guys playing their part as well.
“I’ve loved every minute of calling Test cricket. Brendon (McCullum’s) 300 will live forever in my mind; Test wins at Lord’s, Hobart, Ross Taylor’s 290, the draw at Eden Park with so much drama against England, and of course the World Cup Final at Lord’s last year.
“I dedicate this award to my wife Louise. Anyone who’s been involved with touring and cricket will know you have to have a base and Louise has been fantastic the whole time, and has brought up three great sons in Jarrod, Jake and Angus.
“I also want to thank my team-mates throughout my playing career who made it all possible to have the success that I had.
“Also, the people I’ve worked with and, in particular, the people over the past two decades at SKY television who have provided cricket coverage. I was part of it from day one right to the very end and I will never forget the friends I’ve made and the hard work they put in.
“I also thank New Zealand Cricket, I thank the Board, I thank yourself Greg, David White and all those people who have helped along the way.
“It’s been a great journey and I wouldn’t trade it for a second.”
NZC Chairman Greg Barclay congratulated Smith on behalf of everyone in the wider cricket family.
“Thanks for being such a great contributor to the game,” he told Smith.
“It’s a wonderful achievement and you should be very, very proud.
“Thanks also for being true to yourself too, you’re a special figure in cricket, you’re held in high esteem throughout the game and once again congratulations.”
Smith joins a distinguished list of former internationals to win the award including Walter Hadlee, Merv Wallace, John R Reid, Graham Dowling, Sir Richard Hadlee and Ewen Chatfield.