Laura Wolvaardt plays an expansive shot through the off-side. © Getty Images

Laura Wolvaardt bagged as many as three awards, including Cricketer of the Year, at the Cricket South Africa awards on Saturday (July 4). The honours capped off what was an incredible season for the right-hander, in which she smashed a total of 598 runs across formats, also playing a key role in the team’s ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 campaign in Australia.

“It’s such an honour to receive this award,” Wolvaardt said from the comfort of her home. “It’s crazy! I was so chuffed to be nominated alongside so many of my heroes, who I looked up to growing up. To be nominated and actually winning is incredible to think about.”

Although she batted only twice in the mega event, Wolvaardt had a lasting impression on the tournament, even being singled out by Australian player-turned-commentator Melanie Jones as one of the “surprise” packages of the tournament. The 21-year-old scored 94 runs in just two innings at a strike rate just under 150, including her maiden half-century against Pakistan.

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“The World Cup will always hold a special place in my heart. Although it was disappointing not to go all the way, I’m proud of the way we played through the tournament,” she said.

In addition to winning top honours, Wolvaardt claimed the ODI Player of the Year award and was also voted Players’ Player of the Year.

Through the 50-over format, the right-hander collected 382 runs at a splendid average of 54.57. She scored 117 runs in South Africa’s historic 3-0 whitewash of New Zealand in New Zealand earlier this year – her tally including an unbeaten 91 in a chase of 260.

Referred to as “a legend in the making” by skipper Dane van Niekerk, Wolvaardt – at 21 years and 2 months – became the youngest female player to bag the Cricketer of the Year award, just two months younger than Sune Luus was when she won in 2017.

“Laura was named in the tournament select XI at the conclusion of the ICC Women’s World T20 which tells us a great deal about the esteem in which she is held at international level,” said Dr Jacques Faul, CSA’s acting chief executive. “At the age of 21 her best years are ahead of her and she will be a key player when the Proteas go to the ICC Women’s World Cup next year.”

Meanwhile, Shabnim Ismail was named T20I Player of the Year, having scalped 19 wickets through the season. The fiery seamer was at her lethal best, both picking up wickets and keeping the runs in check. Her season strike rate of 20.2 and economy rate of 4.97 underline the control she brought to the South African attack through a period that saw Marizanne Kapp struggle with fitness.

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Nonkululeko Mlaba, the left-arm spinner was named the Newcomer of the Year for her promising performances through 2019-20. Having made her debut against India in September 2019, Mlaba had to wait seven matches to take her first international wicket. It came against Thailand in the T20 World Cup in Australia, when she dismissed Sornnarin Tippoch caught by Wolvaardt for one.

Although she has so far taken only three wickets through her international career, Mlaba played an important role in South Africa’s T20 World Cup campaign. She showed great discipline with the ball, choking the batters with her attacking lines – her T20I career economy of 6.68 highlighting that fact.

Finally, Mignon du Preez, the veteran batter, won the ‘Streetwise Award’ for her important contribution to South Africa’s win over England in the T20 World Cup – a victory that allowed them to clinch the top spot in their group. The award was a first of it’s kind, seeing the men and women compete in the same category.

“It is an important sign of the changing face of cricket that for the first time our best men’s and women’s players competed on a level playing field for some of the awards and Mignon du Preez’s achievement in being named winner of the Streetwise Award is a very significant one,” said Faul. “She has been a wonderful servant of the game for a long period of time and her performance in reaching the milestone of 100 T20 International caps deserves special mention.”

“Our domestic cricket remains blessed with great talents and congratulations to all the winners in those categories as well.”

“I warmly congratulate all our winners, both at international and domestic level, and I also wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge our umpires, grounds staff and scorers, too,” he concluded.

List of winners:

Cricketer of the Year: Laura Wolvaardt
T20I Player of the Year: Shabnim Ismail
ODI Player of the Year: Laura Wolvaardt
Player’s Player of the Year: Laura Wolvaardt
Newcomer of the Year: Nonkululeko Mlaba
Streetwise award: Mignon du Preez