Errol Holmes had a somewhat odd cricketing career with three distinct parts. A fine schoolboy cricketer at Malvern, he had an outstanding University career with Oxford, but then left the game for seven years due to business commitments before returning to first-class cricket to captain Surrey. He retired in 1938, but was pressed to return to the Surrey captaincy after the war, and played two further seasons in 1947 and 1948. At his best, he was an exciting attacking bat, and a tearaway fast bowler. As a bat, he loved to take the attack to the bowler, refusing to get tied down. He favoured the off-side shots, driving with a full sweep of the bat, and forcing through the covers off the back foot. He was adept at placing the ball on the on-side, especially off the front foot. In his younger days he could bowl genuinely quick for brief periods, but slowed to fast-medium, and was a useful change bowler. He was an excellent and well-liked captain of Surrey, always looking to keep the game entertaining and scrupulously fair. He made every effort to keep the game enjoyable for payers and spectators alike, and unlike his predecessor at Surrey (Jardine) frowned on the use of the short-pitched delivery.
Born in Calcutta, he arrived at Oxford after averaging over 60 during his schoolboy career at Malvern. He played for the University for four years, also earning a football Blue. During this time he made his highest first-class score, 236 against Free Foresters, and captained the University in his final year. His final innings for Oxford in the University match at Lord's was a thrilling century as his side chased a big fourth innings total.
He had played just once for Surrey in 1924, and briefly in 1926 (playing in the match in which Hobbs beat Grace's century record) but after Jardine gave up the Surrey captaincy, he was persuaded to return to lead them in 1934. Seven years out of top-class cricket appeared to do little harm to his batting, and after a successful season he was picked to tour the West Indies as vice-captain. He made a duck in his first Test innings on a fearsome sticky-wicket in Barbados, but made 85* batting at number eight in the Second Test, deprived of a Test century as he ran out of partners. He failed in the other two Tests, and when selected to play against South Africa in 1935 made only 10 and 8. He led a team to New Zealand to play "unofficial Tests" in 1935/36. A fine county season in 1936 earned him a place in the party to tour Australia, but he had to withdraw due to business commitments - he played no further Tests.
After retirement he served on both the Surrey and MCC committees, and took considerable delight in seeing Surrey dominate the county Championship in the 1950s. Holmes wrote of his own batting "Whatever success I had can, I think, be attributed to my natural desire to hit the ball".
(Article: Copyright © 2003 Dave Liverman)
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