Yorkshire Post readers have voted in their numbers to make cricketer Adam Lyth the county’s top sporting hero for 2014. Chris Waters reports.
IT feels as though Adam Lyth has won almost as many awards lately as he scored runs in the County Championship last season.
That would clearly be impossible, for the Yorkshire batsman hit 1,489 of them at an average of 67.68.
But if Lyth needs anything for Christmas this year, it is more likely to be a new mantelpiece than the latest gizmo or a pair of socks.
He was won more gongs than a Hollywood actor, claiming most of the cricketing oscars.
In a little over 72 hours at the end of the summer, Lyth scooped five prestigious honours.
He won The Cricket Writers’ Club County Championship Player of the Year at a glittering awards ceremony in London.
He followed that up with the Professional Cricketers’ Association Player of the Year at another glittering awards ceremony in London.
Back in Leeds, Lyth won Yorkshire’s Player of the Year, Players’ Player of the Year and Fielder of the Year at the club’s end-of-season dinner.
If the Whitby-born opening batsman was not suffering from a hangover after that lot, he should have been.
Now, just when he thought that the fuss had died down and the red carpet been rolled away, Lyth has bagged “the big one”.
Down in deepest South Africa, where he is on tour with the England Performance Programme, Lyth received the news that readers of The Yorkshire Post have voted him the Yorkshire Sports Hero of 2014.
Considering the amount of Commonwealth champions that Yorkshire crowned this year, from Alistair Brownlee and Lizzie Armitstead through to Nicola Adams and Sophie Taylor, it highlights the significance of Lyth’s achievement.
The 27-year-old left-hander joins inaugural champion Kevin Sinfield, the 2012 recipient Jessica Ennis and last year’s winner Matt Fitzpatrick on the honours board.
“It is a great honour to win the prestigious Yorkshire Post Sports Hero award and I would like to thank everyone who took time to vote for me,” said Lyth, who gained 20 per cent of the vote in a star-studded field.
“To be recognised as the best sporting hero by the readers in the county is fantastic.
“It has been an incredible 2014 for me, the club and my team-mates.
“To win the Championship was fantastic and well-deserved.
“We were the best team throughout the country, played the most positive brand of cricket and we had this inner belief right from the outset that we were going to win the title.
“The challenge now is to continue that success and dominate the game for many years to come.”
Lyth, who will return home for Christmas before going back to South Africa in the New Year with the England Lions’ squad, said he has enjoyed building on last season’s efforts with the bat.
He is in the midst of a busy winter along with most of his Yorkshire colleagues, many of whom are in England’s representative squads.
“From a personal point of view, I am in a good place right now,” he reflected. “I’m enjoying my cricket and being part of a special group of players.
“I have challenged myself to continually improve and build on what was a brilliant season for Yorkshire cricket.
“I’m currently with the England Performance Programme and testing myself at this level has been important for my development, and it is also gratifying that I can share my England exploits with a number of my Yorkshire colleagues.”
Along with Yorkshire batsman Joe Root, who is a member of the full England team, Lyth is rubbing shoulders this winter with county colleagues Gary Ballance, Liam Plunkett, Jonny Bairstow, Adil Rashid, Alex Lees and Jack Brooks, all of whom have hopes of ascending, or returning, to the highest level.
Such has been Yorkshire’s success this year that five men who contributed to the Championship triumph accounted for a whopping 47 per cent of the Yorkshire Sports Hero vote. Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale was runner-up, while Root finished in fourth place.
Ballance and coach Jason Gillespie also came in the top-12 to emphasise the depth and range of talent.
But even though Yorkshire’s success was a true team effort, from backroom staff to the players themselves, Lyth’s contribution clearly stood out.
Without it, Yorkshire, quite simply, would not have won the title. Take out his runs and they would not have had the platform. In 12 of his 23 innings, Lyth passed 50 and converted to a three-figure score on six occasions. The highlight was a career-best 251 against Lancashire at Old Trafford, which helped to engineer a win that effectively sealed the title. It was not just the size of Lyth’s scores, however, as the style with which he made them that left an impression on Yorkshire’s supporters.
No Lyth innings of substance fails to leave a mark; his cover drives, in particular, are a joy to behold, while he accumulates freely all around the ground.
The key to Lyth’s success in 2014, however, was improved concentration, which led to a reduction in stylish cameos and an increase in significant contributions.
That same concentration was evident in his fielding; no one took more than Lyth’s 35 catches in the Championship, and he was often outstanding in the second slip position, taking seven slip catches against Middlesex at Scarborough, in addition to scoring a first-innings century.
Now every Yorkshire supporter will hope that 2014 is not the culmination of Lyth’s journey but simply the springboard to Test level, no matter how detrimental that is to Yorkshire’s own state.
Lyth deserves his shot at Test cricket starting with the tour to the West Indies in April; he certainly warrants selection far more than Alastair Cook or Sam Robson. In the meantime, on behalf of everyone who voted for him, let us extend our thanks and best wishes to this fine Yorkshire cricketer. Another award for Lyth – and richly deserved.
Our competition winner, who wins two hospitality tickets to day two of the Headingley Test between England and New Zealand on May 30, is Mr Derek Chapman.