No. 29

Hollioake stands up to McGrath

An English teenager makes a startling debut against the old enemy

Tim de Lisle

July 5, 2009

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Ben Hollioake pulls during his 48-ball 63 on debut, England v Australia, 3rd ODI, Lord's, 25 May, 1997
A pinch hitter because spectators pinched themselves seeing his hitting © Getty Images
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London, 25 May 1997

Ben Hollioake did things young. He played Test cricket as a teenager, which is unheard of in England. He made his debut in a one-day international at Lord's against Australia in 1997, alongside his brother Adam. Mike Atherton decided to send Ben, a seam-bowling allrounder, in at No. 3 as a pinch hitter - so called because the members pinched themselves when they saw his hitting.

Third ball, he straight-drove Glenn McGrath for four. Soon he was clipping him into the Tavern for six, causing delirium. When Shane Warne came on, he swept him for four. The nonchalance was irresistible.

The Lord's pavilion is full of old men, because the waiting list to become a member is 18 years long, and when this 19-year-old was out, for 63 off only 48 balls, they rose creakily from their benches and stood to acclaim him. It was an intensely moving sight. Here at last was an England cricketer who could bat, bowl, field, and shine on the big stage. Alec Stewart said he was the most gifted cricketer he had played alongside.

That first fine careless rapture was never to be repeated. While Ben produced similar pieces of magic for Surrey, two of them in Lord's finals, his first-class form was patchy and his England progress fitful. The fickle selection that had brought him into the team soon squeezed him out: he played only 20 of a possible 84 one-dayers, and just two Tests. In 2002, he died, aged 24, in a car accident in Perth. So he stays, in cricket's folk memory, forever young, and when you think of him, you think of that day at Lord's.

Tim de Lisle is a former editor of Wisden. This article was first published in the print version of Cricinfo Magazine

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Tim de Lisle Tim de Lisle is a former editor of Wisden. He fell in love with newspapers at the age of seven and with cricket at the age of 10. He started in journalism at 16, reviewing records for the London Australian Magazine, before reading classics at Oxford and writing for Smash Hits, Harpers & Queen and the Observer. He has been a feature writer on the Daily Telegraph, arts editor of the Times and the Independent on Sunday, and editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly, where he won an Editor of the Year award. Since 1999, Tim has been the rock critic of the Mail on Sunday. He is deputy editor of Intelligent Life, the new general-interest magazine from the Economist. He writes for the Guardian and makes frequent appearances as a cricket pundit on the BBC and Sky News.

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