Sachin Tendulkar and Doug Bracewell have won the Test batting and bowling awards in the fifth annual ESPNcricinfo Awards, announced on Monday.
Tendulkar's 146 in Cape Town early in 2011 came in testing conditions and in the face of some sublime swing bowling by Dale Steyn. Bracewell won in his debut year in international cricket, for his 6 for 40 in New Zealand's historic seven-run win against Australia in Hobart.
Another first for the awards was the victory of an Associate player - Kevin O'Brien, who got votes from 13 out of the panel of 16 jurors, for his nerveless century in Ireland's historic win over England in the World Cup. The ODI bowling award didn't emerge from the global tournament, though there were five World Cup performances among the nominees. Mitchell Johnson won it for his six-wicket haul in Pallekele during Australia's tour to Sri Lanka.
The awards were decided by a 16-member jury that included former players Ian Chappell, Ian Bishop, Ramiz Raja, Kepler Wessels, Geoff Boycott, Martin Crowe, Sanjay Manjrekar and Russel Arnold, and ESPNcricinfo's senior writers. The jurors were asked to pick their top three performances in each category from a shortlist of nominees.
The Test and ODI bowling performances were closely fought. Stuart Broad was the loser by a just a point in both categories - for his 4 for 15 in the World Cup match against South Africa and his six-for, which included a hat-trick, in the Trent Bridge Test against India. However, he beat Steyn, 2010's Test bowling winner, by six points in Tests and four points in ODIs.
The Test batting category had the widest gap between the winner and No. 2 - six points separated Tendulkar's innings and Michael Clarke's 151, also scored in Cape Town, in the Test in which Australia dismissed South Africa for 96 and were then bowled out in their second innings for 47.
Tendulkar was the No. 1 choice of seven jurors out of the 11 who had him in their top three. O'Brien's figures were the next best, with six No. 1 votes.
Bishop, the former West Indies bowler, said O' Brien's innings was exceptional. "The manner in which it was scored when his team was in the situation that it was... the type of power-hitting showed, the type of fearlessness he showed augurs well for him and his team."
While it was Tendulkar's second ESPNcricinfo Award - he won the ODI Batting performance in 2009 for his 175 against Australia in Hyderabad - it was a first for the rest.
Chappell, a former Australia captain, said Tendulkar showed true class during his 146. "He faced 314 balls which is not Tendulkar-like, the strike rate, but these were precious runs. This was another side of Tendulkar, just showing his greatness - his ability to make runs when things were really tough, and he really had to battle."
ESPNcricinfo's readers agreed with the jury's assessment of the Test batting performance but picked Virender Sehwag, Junaid Khan and Shahid Afridi in the other three categories.