CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1936

Errol Holmes

Errol Reginald Thorold Holmes, one of the leading amateur batsmen in the country last season, captain of Surrey and of the M.C.C. team that toured Australia and New Zealand in the winter, must be numbered among the greatest cricketers Malvern has produced. Born at Calcutta on August 21, 1905, he showed a liking and aptitude for cricket while receiving his early education at St. Andrew's School, Eastbourne, and on entering Malvern quickly revealed promise both in batting and bowling. Owing a good deal to the coaching of C. Toppin who, before his death in 1928, helped to develop many fine cricketers who passed through the College, Holmes, in 1922, at the age of sixteen, scored more runs than anyone and headed the bowling averages. In one match he took for 36 runs all ten wickets in an innings. The next year, when captain, a strain hampered him in bowling and in that department of the game--he was definitely fast for a schoolboy--he never reproduced his previous year's form. That may have been a blessing in disguise, for his batting improved out of all knowledge and scoring 730 runs he averaged 60.83 per innings.

Holmes that year received due recognition, not only for his stylish batting and beautifully correct driving, but for his inspiring leadership. Certain shortcomings in defence he eradicated without the sacrifice of brilliancy of attacking strokes and in 1924--a season of many wet wickets--he hit 166 v. Westminster and 138 v. Repton and finished at the head of the Malvern batting with 674 runs, average 74.88. With this splendid reputation, he stepped straight into the Oxford team as a Freshman; he also gained his Association football blue as a centre-forward, and in due course captained both elevens.

Although having one or two triumphs with his medium-fast bowling, it was by batting that Holmes made such a fine impression on his introduction to first-class cricket from school. For Oxford against the Army in 1925, he scored 238 runs for once out--a performance that had much to do with his season's record of 553 runs, average 34.56, which placed him second in the batting list to G. B. Legge with whom during 1926 he was involved in a motor accident. This incapacitated Holmes for a time; a damaged foot handicapped him in batting and fielding and also ruined him as a bowler until late in the summer. As in the preceding season he played a few games for Surrey and, with the increased experience, finished his Oxford career brilliantly in 1927 when he was captain. Against Cambridge he stood head and shoulders above the rest of the team, hitting a score of 113, including seventeen 4's, and with A. T. Barber sharing in a stand of 183 after the first two second innings wickets had fallen without a run. By this grand effort, he gave Oxford a fair chance of winning but a collapse after the breaking of the big partnership saw Cambridge successful by 116 runs. Four times that season Holmes hit a three-figure score and he came out top of the batting averages with 934 runs, average 54.94.

After going to Jamaica the following winter with the Hon. L. H. Tennyson's team Holmes, for business reasons, dropped out of first-class cricket but in 1934, during the tour to the West Indies in 1934-35 and again last season he afforded convincing proof that the long break had done his batting no harm. While he did not come off for England at Lord's last June, he headed Surrey's batting list, scored in all matches 1,925 runs--506 more than in 1934--and improved his average from 27.82 to 41.84. By his many fine innings last season he did much to disprove the contention that the altered L.B.W. rule would cramp off-side play. A marked characteristic about the batting of Holmes is the ease and certainty of his strokes; he is a very strong forward player who can drive really hard. So good is his footwork and power of wrist that he has no real need to exploit the modern method of leg-side play but even so he is no mean exponent of such strokes. With left shoulder forward and firm right knee, Holmes directly he goes in convinces one that his main object is to get runs. When in form he is a genuine attraction. Unfortunately for the game, he has announced that the claims of business will not allow him to continue the captaincy of Surrey for more than another season, but if his time permits he should be a certain choice for the next tour to Australia.

© John Wisden & Co