Steve Smith was surprised to learn he pipped Pat Cummins in Allan Border medal voting on Saturday, when Beth Mooney’s brilliant Twenty20 World Cup was recognised with the Belinda Clark award.
Smith and Mooney were the big winners on a socially-distant night of nights for Cricket Australia.
Smith’s dominant ODI series against India, during which he scored a pair of 62-ball centuries, helped him join David Warner as a three-time winner of the Allan Border medal.
Smith polled 126 votes to finish above Cummins (117) and white-ball skipper Aaron Finch (97) on the leaderboard.
It came a year after Warner topped the count then choked back tears as he thanked family for their support in the aftermath of the Cape Town cheating scandal.
There was no red carpet and few formalities on Saturday, when Smith learned in the morning of his honour before officially being revealed as the winner during the pre-game broadcast of the Big Bash League final.
“It got given to me by Tim Cruickshank from the ACA (players’ union), he brought it up from Melbourne,” Smith told reporters.
“I didn’t expect it. I thought Marnus (Labuschagne) or Pat Cummins were probably the frontrunners because they both had exceptional years.
“I didn’t fee like l had the biggest Test summer, which … (is the format that) holds the most votes.
“It’s obviously a great thrill … really honoured to have won my third.”
Four-time winners Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke are the only players to have won the Allan Border medal, introduced in 2000, more than Smith or Warner.
Mooney, the world’s top-ranked Twenty20 batter, scored a record-breaking 259 runs at 64.75 to be named player of the tournament during Australia’s T20 World Cup triumph.
The 27-year-old now formally stands alongside Ellyse Perry, Meg Lanning and Alyssa Healy – who had topped the leaderboard during the previous seven Belinda Clark award counts – as a genuine superstar.
Mooney polled 60 votes to edge Lanning (58) and Georgia Wareham (50).
“We’ve certainly got some players in the Australia side at the moment who will be remembered for a long time as some of the best we’ve ever produced,” Mooney said.
“To be playing alongside them, let alone being up on an honour roll next to them (after) winning this award, is a pretty surreal thing.
“It’s named after Belinda Clark, who is an absolute pioneer of our game and women’s sport in this country, so I think it will take a bit of time to sink in.
“It’s certainly something I won’t take for granted … I’m very grateful.”
Mooney also took home the women’s T20 player of the year, while Rachael Haynes was named ODI player of the year.
Smith (ODI player of the year), Cummins (Test player of the year) and Ashton Agar (T20 player of the year) collected the other men’s gongs, while Josh Lalor won the community impact award for his part in the Reflect Forward campaign.