Watson may trump Clarke in tight contest for medal

MELBOURNE - Shane Watson could trump favourite Michael Clarke to become a surprise winner of the Allan Border Medal in Melbourne tonight.

In what should be a tight battle, Test run-machine Clarke is vying to join his captaincy predecessor Ricky Ponting as the only four-time winner of Australian cricket's top individual prize.

Clarke is a near-certainty to be named Test player of the year, for which Watson will be well down the rankings.

But despite missing 15 matches over the three formats during the voting period because of injury, Watson's expected vote-winning ways in the shorter formats could push him to the top.

The all-rounder won the medal in 2010 and 2011, while Clarke won his third last year.

Watson will be near-impossible to beat for the Twenty20 award - boasting impressive figures of 406 runs at 40.6 in 11 matches and a bowling average of 15.82 - despite missing the two recent clashes with Sri Lanka.

He will be boosted by a run of four straight man-of-the-match awards during the ICC World Twenty20 in September.

Watson is also likely to push David Warner for the one-day international honour despite missing 10 of Australia's 25 matches in that format.

His combined tally in the two shorter formats could be enough by itself to win the Allan Border Medal, although he is likely to attract only minor votes in some Test matches after scoring 346 runs at 31.45 in six matches.

Warner will also be a contender for the top award, also based mainly on limited overs performances.

Mike Hussey's consistency, particularly in Test and one-day cricket, gives him an outside shot.

Helping Clarke, votes for each Test match carry double the weight of one-dayers and three times that of T20 games, which he doesn't play.

But given Australia played more than twice as many ODIs (25) as Tests (nine), the 50-over game will count for more than any other format.

And Watson's T20 votes could still end up almost matching Clarke's Test tally, given his dominance in that format.

While Clarke's magnificent double-centuries in back-to-back Tests against South Africa were the most memorable performances, they still can't attract more than the maximum six votes each (three from fellow players and three from umpires-match referees and media, under a 3-2-1 system).

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