When snow hit large swathes of southern England on March 8 this year, a flurry of quips followed: it must almost be time for the county cricket season to begin.
Those dry-witted weather predictions came true one year ago, on March 31, as photographer Matthew Lewis lined up to snap Nottinghamshire's players and coaching staff at Trent Bridge ahead of the 2022 Championship season when something of a spring "blizzard" struck. One of the resulting images has been declared winner of the Wisden Photograph of the Year 2022 competition.
The Nottinghamshire players pose as expected, standing or sitting to attention as they face the camera, most grinning through the cold. England seamer Stuart Broad is the only one to properly break ranks, throwing his hands and gaze joyfully skyward as the snow falls.
Lewis, a freelancer working for Getty Images at the time, is the first photographer to claim the award twice after winning in 2014 and described winning as an honour.
"It was a bright spring morning for the pre-season photocall, though we knew snow was possible," Lewis recalled. "And, just as everyone had got into position, it began. I think the expressions on their faces - especially Stuart Broad's - sums it all up!"
Lewis was awarded £1,000 with two runners up each receiving £400 for their entries, Phil Hillyard's black-and-white image of groundstaff removing covers at 6.30 on a gloomy morning during the Fourth Ashes Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground on January 6 and Philip Brown's photograph of an airborne Keshav Maharaj of South Africa at full stretch in a valiant attempt to catch England's Alex Lees during the third Test at The Kia Oval on September 11.
All three photographs will feature in the 2023 edition of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, to be published on April 20, and will be on display in the gallery at the foot the Galadari stand at The Oval, along with seven other shortlisted entries.
Chris Smith, chair of the judging panel and former chief sports photographer of The Sunday Times, said: "It's always good to see a picture that brings a smile, as this one certainly does. If the snow flurry had arrived five minutes earlier, surely they would have waited until it stopped. And if it had arrived five minutes later, we would have been denied a most unusual and humorous picture."
Acclaimed cricket photographer Patrick Eagar, also on the panel, added: "There's something about the contradiction - it being taken just as the season starts. The team group are perfectly composed, the subjects are in their best kit, and the photographer has them lined up to perfection. Only it's still winter!"
Brown was also shortlisted for his captivating image of 12-year-old Mohammad Sarfraz batting near Jinnah International Airport in Karachi.
The 2022 competition attracted almost 500 entries from around the world. Three new prizes were awarded for amateurs, with Elysa Hubbard winning best image by an amateur for her photo of two Nepali groundswomen rolling the pitch beneath the stunning Annapurna mountain range in preparation for an MCC Women's tour match involving a Cricket Association of Nepal side against MCC at Pokhara Cricket Ground in Nepal.
The runners-up in the amateur category were Pratik Shetty for an image depicting a game against the backdrop of the mountains near Hatta in Dubai, using a carpet to provide sufficient bounce for the players, and Sowrav Das with an intriguing shot of a game taking place on a part-submerged vessel carrying sand in the Karnaphuli River in Chattogram, Bangladesh.