Virat Kohli and Mithali Raj win Wisden awards

Only two female cricketers — Claire Taylor and Charlotte Edwards, Knight's immediate predecessor as England captain — had previously won the honour.

Virat Kohli won his award for the second year in a row, after again starring in all formats. (File Photo)   -  AFP

Heather Knight, Natalie Sciver and Anya Shrubsole of England have been named among Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year, in a landmark move by the sport's 'bible'.

Only two female cricketers — Claire Taylor and Charlotte Edwards, Knight's immediate predecessor as England captain — had previously won the honour.

However, Knight, Sciver and Shrusbole's contributions to England in the 2017 World Cup that culminated in a dramatic win over India in a sold-out final at Lord's, saw them honoured by the Wisden Cricketer's Almanack.

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Shrubsole, who turned the final on its head by taking five for 11 on her way to figures of 6 for 46, as India suffered a stunning collapse, also became the first woman on the front cover of Wisden, in its 155th edition.

West Indies batsman Shai Hope and Essex bowler Jamie Porter were also chosen for the honour. Meanwhile, India captains Virat Kohli and Mithali Raj were named the leading men's and women's cricketers in the world, respectively.

Kohli won the award for the second year in a row, after again starring in all formats, while Raj was acknowledged after a year in which she became the leading run-scorer in women's one-day internationals, during India's run to the World Cup final.

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Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan collected the inaugural leading Twenty20 cricketer in the world prize. Lawrence Booth wrote in his editor's notes for the 2018 Wisden: “When the cover was unveiled in January, it generated seven times as much social media interest as its predecessor, which depicted Virat Kohli, the most marketable player of the world's best-supported team.”

“Wisden shouldn't be too smug: we have often been slow to acknowledge the women's game. Thanks to Shrubsole and her team-mates, the case has become unanswerable. There were few cries of tokenism.”

By tradition, the Cricketer of the Year award can be won only once by any player and is judged mainly on their contribution to the English season.

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‘Natmeg’

Knight, Sciver and Shrubsole, all played key roles in a transformative World Cup for women's cricket, with the captain scoring 364 runs at 45.5.

All-rounder Sciver struck 369 runs at 46.12 and was credited with inventing a new stroke — the 'Natmeg' — when she turned a yorker between her legs during the course of a century against New Zealand.

Hope was chosen mainly on the back of his brilliant twin centuries that saw West Indies to a shock win over England in the second Test at Headingley.

It was the first time any batsman had scored centuries in both innings of a first-class match at Yorkshire's headquarters ground, with Booth saying it was “one of the individual performances of the year”.

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Stokes suspension ‘perverse’

Meanwhile, Booth criticised the England and Wales Cricket Board's (ECB) treatment of all-rounder Ben Stokes, following an incident outside a Bristol nightclub, in September.

The Durham star was made unavailable for all of England's eventual 4-0 Ashes series loss in Australia. He appeared in court, in February, charged with affray, before joining up with the England side again during its tour of New Zealand.

Stokes denies the charge and a trial date has been set for August 6. “To suspend Stokes, while he awaited the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service, was reasonable enough. To lift the suspension, the moment he was charged, was perverse. It was all so sad,” wrote Booth.