Andre Botha is Ireland’s International Player of the Year. The North County all rounder received his award last night at the inaugural Cricket Writers’ of Ireland Dinner in Belfast.
Botha played in 25 of Ireland’s record 32 games in 2008 – injury ruled him out of all but the opening match of the Friends Provident Trophy campaign – and he topped the writers’ poll after scoring 756 runs at an average of 36 and took 37 wickets at 18 runs apiece and an economy rate of just 3.2 runs an over. The South Africa-born 33 year old was, comfortably, Ireland’s leading run scorer, although Niall O’Brien, with the help of his match-winning unbeaten century in this month’s Intercontinental Cup final topped the averages from 15 matches.
Only Peter Connell with 44 in 19 matches took more wickets than Botha who has been Ireland’s leading all-rounder since he became a regular in the team in 2003, two years after his debut, playing as a professional in the NatWest Trophy.
Also honoured at last night’s dinner was Cliftonville’s Paul Stirling who picked up the Young Player of the Year. The 17-year old was given his first cap in the opening match of the year, against UAE in Abu Dhabi, and although he did not make the final 15 for the end-of season Africa tour, he scored 274 runs in 18 matches during the summer with the highlight his score of 70, in only his fourth game, against Northamptonshire, an innings which included four sixes, one of them off England’s Monty Panesar.
The CWI’s first Club Player of the Year is Donemana’s Junior McBrine. Now 45-years old, Junior continues to pick up awards for fun, 14 years after the last of his 35 Ireland appearances. This year he scored 761 runs at 41.7 per innings and took 53 wickets at the miserly average of 14.
It was McBrine’s second award in 48 hours. At the weekend he received the Radio Foyle Player of the Year at the North West union’s annual dinner.
CWI chairman Robin Walsh last night also announced Ireland Under-19 international Eddie Richardson as the first recipient of the CWI/CricketEurope bursary. It will pay for the North County pace bowler to attend a nine-day cricket clinic in Mumbai next month.
More than 50 members and guests attended the dinner including award sponsors, Roy Torrens, the Ireland team manager, Ulster Bank, and the Russell Court Hotel in Dublin.