Remembering Ben 10 years on
Posted in England
Many England fans will recall where they were when they heard of Ben Hollioake’s death on Saturday 23 March 2002. At 24 years and 132 days, he is the youngest England Test player to lose his life.
The Surrey seam bowling all-rounder died during a car crash in Perth, Western Australia, on his way home from the annual Hollioake family end-of-summer meal, also attended by Ben’s older brother Adam, that preceded the siblings’ return to England for the domestic season.
News of Ben’s death came in the morning session on day three of England’s Test with New Zealand at Wellington, where several thousand England supporters were present. Wisden Cricket Monthly magazine’s headline ‘The Test that ceased to matter’ summed up the impact the tragedy had on the match.
With a modest record in his two Tests and 20 one-day internationals, Ben was an unquestionably an unfulfilled talent.
Alec Stewart, who captained him for club and country, said: "Ben was the most naturally gifted cricketer that I have ever played alongside."
Few who saw Ben’s England debut in May 1997 will forget it. Having made his Surrey bow little more than a year before, he was given a chance in the third one-day international versus Australia that also featured Adam.
With an unassailable 2-0 lead thanks in part to fifties from Adam, he was asked to bat at three and went in with 22 on the board as the hosts pursued 270 for a whitewash.
The elegant right-hander drove his third ball from Glenn McGrath for four and took 13 from the fast bowler’s next over. Ben soon swept leg-spinner Shane Warne for another of 12 boundaries in a 48-ball 63 that put England on course for a comfortable win.
Ben enjoyed another memorable day at Lord’s that summer when his 98, again from number three, aided a demolition of Kent in the Benson and Hedges Cup final, which enabled captain Adam to lift the trophy.
A month later, when Australia were 2-1 up in the Ashes with two games to go, the Hollioakes became the fifth set of brothers to play Test cricket for England and the third to make simultaneous debuts.
Ben made only a small impact in defeat at Trent Bridge and it was a similar story in his other Test, more than a year later against Sri Lanka at the Oval.
Disappointing ODI and domestic form resulted in a two-and-a-half year international absence and the loss of his Surrey place late in the 2000 campaign.
A resurgence in 2001 led to an England recall and noteworthy knocks in the NatWest Series: 37 not out against Australia at Bristol and, following consecutive ducks, 53 versus Pakistan at Headingley.
Soon after he produced a second man-of-the-match display in two Lord’s finals. His 73 from number seven set up an emphatic defeat of Gloucestershire, again in the B&H Cup.
That winter saw more valuable all-round England contributions, but an ODI with India at Kanpur in late January 2002 proved to be his last competitive appearance.
That Ben would have improved on Test averages of 11 with the bat and 49.75 with the ball and ODI equivalents of 20.6 and 66.5 respectively is likely. How dramatically is open to debate.
His athleticism in the field would have made him the complete package in Twenty20 cricket, which began in 2003.
At Ben’s funeral, Adam fittingly described his brother as "a beautiful work of art, a classic sculpture".