DateLine: 13th February 2006
If ever anyone showed what could be achieved with intense competitiveness and an iron will to win, it was Adam Hollioake. A good batsman, but not great, and a bowler who had a bag of medium paced tricks, he once captured the mood of a nation, captained a traditionally wooden England limited-overs team to silverware on foreign soil and led Surrey to the Championship title three times. A century on his First-class debut in 1993 indicated a liking for the pressured occasion, although it was 1996 when he first came to international prominence, when he bowled the Pakistani lower order to defeat on his ODI debut. The next summer he hit the winning runs in every Texaco Trophy match against the Australians, although in the third match he had been overshadowed by brother Benís scintillating 63 on debut. Despite the Texaco success breeding a wave of belief and euphoria around the country, both brothers were initially held back from the Test team. Their debut came together at Trent Bridge in the Fifth Test, and they made brothers vs. brothers history by bowling in tandem against the Waugh twins. However, Adamís bowling, so liable to trip up a batsman in a hurry in a one-day match, was far less of a threat to a batsman with time on his hands, and in the rest of his brief Test career his bowling was only ever an afterthought. His batting, a mixture of power and innovation, also failed to sparkle at Test level. With Mike Atherton out of the limited-overs side, and with Hollioake having captained Surrey to the 1997 Benson & Hedges Cup, the unusually bold decision to give him the England one-day captaincy was given. This reaped immediate rewards, as he led an unlikely band of county rascals to success in the Sharjah held Champions Trophy of December 1997 with their brand of bits and pieces ubercricket. However, after less of a winning feeling in the Caribbean later that winter, and then at home to South Africa in the Texaco Trophy in 1998, Hollioake lost the captaincy, as with the newly appointed Test skipper (Alec Stewart) now also a limited-overs regular there was no need to split the duties.
Although still a regular in the team, a poor 1999 World Cup (where even a limited Zimbabwean team successfully got after his bowling) was the last time he was seen in English colours. Although the selectors warmed him up for the 2003 World Cup by having him as standby for the limited-overs team in Australia, it wasnít to be. Although the whole of English cricket was deeply saddened by the untimely death of Ben Hollioake, it obviously affected Adam more than anyone else. He missed the first half of the 2002 English season although when he returned it was as a batting inferno. Even in the Championship he launched into rival bowling attacks with a rage, and scored his first and only First-class double hundred as Surrey clinched their third title in four years. His last hurrah came with the Twenty20 competition. Although his runs were scored quickly, they were in moderate numbers, although he took an absolute stack of wickets as Surrey were champions and runners-up respectively in the competitionís first two seasons. He retired from professional cricket at the end of 2004, after an ankle injury proved hard to shake off, although he cited business and family commitments as the main reason for his decision. There was a whisper that he may be dusted off for the Twenty20 England vs. Australia match at Bristol in June 2005, although predictably it didnít happen. Hollioake enjoyed more success, fame and tragedy in his decade and a bit of cricket then many others do in a lifetime. The death of Ben spurred him onto various physical gruelling charity endeavours, where his will to win again came to the fore. Although Hollioake was not without his technical excellence (his slower ball was world class and responsible for many of his wickets), he is a prime study in the difference between talent and ability. His talent, at the highest level, was moderate, although his ability to bring it to the fore and to squeeze the best out of it was exceptional. His skills in galvanising the sleeping giant of Surrey County Cricket Club (where he emphasised team spirit and will to win over any great psychology or tactical thinking) also makes him one of the best county captains of recent times.
(Article: Copyright © 2006 Matthew Reed)