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Full name William Eric Hollies
Born June 5, 1912, Old Hill, Staffordshire
Died April 16, 1981, Chinley, Derbyshire (aged 68 years 315 days)
Major teams England, Warwickshire
Batting style Right-hand bat
Bowling style Legbreak googly
|Test debut||West Indies v England at Bridgetown, Jan 8-10, 1935 scorecard|
|Last Test||England v West Indies at Nottingham, Jul 20-25, 1950 scorecard|
It was a great enough distinction to have bowled Don Bradman for a duck in his final Test innings, yet to remember Eric Hollies for that alone would be like seeing Chaplin as no more than a tramp who once made a dramatic meal of a boot. William Eric Hollies, who was born at Old Hill, Staffs on June 5, 1912 and died on April 17, 1981, aged 68, served Warwickshire from 1932 until 1957, by which time his steady legspinners and topspinners, with the occasional googly, had claimed 2201 wickets for the county, and 2323 in all first-class cricket. These aggregates were considerably higher than the runs he made. His batting, a perennial joke, brought him a career-highest of 47 in over 600 innings. He did once, though, help save a Test against South Africa, with an obstinate last-wicket stand with Jack Martin.
Fair-haired and on the short side, he bobbed in and delivered to a persistently unerring length such as possibly only Grimmett has ever matched. It is strange to contemplate the fact that he never performed a hat-trick. But he did take all ten - and without the help of the field: at Edgbaston in 1946 he bowled seven Notts batsmen and had the other three lbw, his 10 for 49 being the best to this day for Warwickshire in a county match. Twice also he took nine in an innings and seven times he took eight. In 14 seasons his toil was rewarded with 100 or more wickets. Truly was he the genial soul of the attack from one generation to the next.
He played 13 times for England, beginning in the crazy match in Barbados in 1935, when 29 wickets fell for 309 runs on a sticky wicket, and ending at Nottingham in 1950. Apart from that first tour of West Indies, he went to Australia in 1950-51, but Doug Wright was preferred for the Test matches. It was 12 years after his debut that Hollies played in his second Test series, taking 5 for 123 off 55.2 overs against South Africa at Nottingham. In the famous Oval match a year later when his clever googly deprived Bradman of a lifetime Test average of 100, he sent down 56 overs to take 5 for 131. He took five again in 1949 - for 133 in 58 overs - against New Zealand at Lord's, and five yet again the following year, this time for 63 as England beat West Indies by 202 runs at Manchester. Worrell and Weekes were among his victims.
And yet his greatest performance was probably for Warwickshire against the 1948 Australians. On a damp surface he flighted and spun eight of the tourists out in the first innings for 107 in 43.5 overs, including Bradman, Hassett and Harvey, and, curiously, both openers, Brown and Morris, hit-wicket.
This was the year of his benefit - successful to the tune of £4896. In 1954 his testimonial returned a further £1796. A number of honours came late. In 1951 his 145 wickets (17.69) helped Warwickshire to their first Championship for 40 years; and in 1953 he once more scared the Australians with 7 for 59 in the county game. In 1955 Hollies was chosen as one of Wisden's Cricketers of the Year, and in his final season, 1957, when he captained Warwickshire, he bowled more overs, 1175, than anyone else in the Championship, and exercised such a spell over the Leicestershire batsmen that 78 consecutive balls went unscored-from.
He spent many subsequent years in the Birmingham League, but sadly a feeling of disenchantment kept him away from Edgbaston until quite recently. In last December's WCM, Jack Bannister wrote a most human recollection of the bowler who was Warwickshire for so many years.
Eric Hollies' animated autobiography, I'll Spin You a Tale, was published in 1955.
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack
Wisden Cricketer of the Year 1955
A look back at five high-profile exhibition matches
Bide your time, put your body behind each delivery, and play with the batsman's mind