Eric Hollies

HOLLIES, WILLIAM ERIC, who died suddenly on April 16, 1981, aged 68, was almost the last of the long line of leg-break and googly bowlers who played such a notable part for 50 years in English cricket. He bowled, as was then becoming fashionable, a trifle faster than many of his predecessors and turned the ball a bit less: what he lost in spin he gained in accuracy and he could well be used as a stock bowler. Like most of his type, he relied for his wickets mainly on his leg-break and top-spinner. Coached by his father, a well-known bowler in the Birmingham League, he made a modest start for Warwickshire in 1932, but in 1933 gained a regular place, which he retained until his retirement in 1957.

By 1934 he had shown such promise that he was picked for the MCC side to the West Indies where, taking seven for 50 in the first innings of the Third Test, he headed the Test match bowling averages. In 1935, when he took 100 wickets for the first time, a feat he accomplished on fourteen occasions, he was picked for the Third Test against South Africa but was forced by injury to withdraw. After this, despite his fine record in county cricket, he was overlooked by the selectors until 1947, when he played in three Tests against South Africa. In 1948, after taking eight for 147 for Warwickshire against the Australians, he played in the final Test at The Oval and performed the feat by which he is best remembered. Bradman, coming in to prolonged applause for his last Test innings, received for his first ball a leg-break, which he played with a dead bat: the second, a perfect googly, bowled him.

But even apart from this Hollies, taking five for 131, fully justified his selection, his other victims being Barnes, Miller, Harvey and Tallon. In 1949 he played in four Tests against New Zealand and in 1950 in two against West Indies, in the first of which he took five for 63 in West Indies' first innings. That winter he was one of the MCC side to Australia and New Zealand, but the pitches did not suit him and his 21 wickets in first-class matches cost him over 40 runs each. However, in 1951 he did much to help Warwickshire win their first Championship for 40 years and he was still bowling with unabated skill in his last season, 1957, when he took 132 wickets at 18.94. Only in 1956, when he had to captain the side, did he fall below his usual standard.

When he retired, he had taken far more wickets for his county than any other bowler. His most sensational performance for them was to take all ten wickets, for 49 runs, against Nottinghamshire at Edgbaston in 1946 without any assistance from the fieldsmen: seven were bowled and three lbw. In 1958 he played a few times for Staffordshire, his native county, and he continued to bowl with success in the Birmingham League until he was over sixty. No doubt his short run and easy action helped him to last, but he possessed also one of the greatest assets a bowler, and especially a bowler of his type, can have: an endlessly cheerful temperament.

In all first-class cricket this immensely popular player took 2,323 wickets at 20.94 and scored 1,673 runs with an average of 5.01, his wickets thus easily exceeding his runs. His highest score was 47 against Sussex at Edgbaston in 1954.

© John Wisden & Co