February 11, 2020 / 2:23 AM / 8 days ago

Cricket-Surprised Warner completes rehabilitation with top award

SYDNEY, Feb 11 (Reuters) - David Warner completed his rehabilitation after serving a ball-tampering ban when he was named his country’s top cricketer for the third time at the Australian Cricket Awards despite a poor showing in last year’s Ashes series.

The lefthanded opening batsmen pipped former captain Steve Smith, who also served a one-year ban for his part in the ball-tampering scandal, by one vote at the ceremony in Melbourne on Monday night.

Warner scored 647 runs at an average of 71.88 at the 50-overs World Cup and 786 at 131 in five tests over the domestic summer but admitted thinking that his 95 runs in 10 innings in the Ashes series would rule him out of a third medal.

“I had an absolutely horrendous Ashes. I didn’t really think I was a chance,” said the 33-year-old, who also won the prize in 2016 and 2017.

“I’m just extremely grateful to be accepted back by Cricket Australia and my peers and also be accepted by the fans.

“I had mixed emotions of how I was going to be received back here at home ... but standing here today I’m just really proud to have that opportunity again.”

A little under two years ago, Warner’s career was in tatters when he returned from South Africa to issue a tearful apology for his part in the Newlands ball-tampering affair and said he was resigned to never playing for Australia again.

Australia’s struggles while he and Smith were serving their bans, however, meant the duo were rushed back into the side for last year’s World Cup and the Ashes series that followed.

Former test vice captain and Twenty20 skipper Warner is still banned from holding a leadership position in the international set-up but will be with the squad when Australia return to South Africa for a one-day series this month.

“I don’t need to hide away from the fact that it’s not going to be nice,” Warner told Fox Sports TV on Tuesday when asked about the reception he was likely to receive from fans in South Africa.

“We always prepare to cop some banter here and there. But we’ll just go out there and score as many runs as we can for the team. We’ll put a smile on our face, walk across the line and represent our country.”

The women’s prize, the Belinda Clark award, went to World Cricketer of the Year Ellyse Perry, also for the third time.

“I’m incredibly flattered,” Perry, who is preparing for the Twenty20 World Cup which kicks off in Australia next week.

“You look at the contributions across the squad in the last 12 months, it’s been incredible from so many players.” (Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)

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