Eric Hollies – So much more than just the man who denied Bradman a perfect 100

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05 Jun 2020 | 02:17 AM
authorAshish Pant

Eric Hollies – So much more than just the man who denied Bradman a perfect 100

On this day, Hollies who is most remembered for bowling Don Bradman for a duck in his final Test innings was born

Factor this in. You are playing just your seventh Test match and on the first day, you have seen your side fold for a mere 52 with just one batsman managing to reach double digits. The opposition openers have then put on 117 for the first wicket without breaking much of a sweat. At the fag end of the day, you get rid of one of the openers but everyone's attention is not on the wicket but the incoming batsman. He is none other than Sir Donald Bradman, arguably the greatest cricketer to ever walk planet Earth.

But what's special is that he is walking out for his last Test match. He needs to score just four runs in his last innings to finish with an average of 100. The crowd waits in anticipation. You run in, bowl the most perfect googly, and in a rare moment of misjudgement the Don does not pick it and is clean bowled for a two-ball duck. He finishes his Test career with an average of 99.94! You have suddenly become responsible for probably the most famous number in the history of cricket.

On this day in 1912, Eric Hollies, who had the distinction to clean bowl Don Bradman for a duck in his final Test innings, was born in Staffordshire, United Kingdom.

A leg-spinner who relied more on accuracy than turning the ball, Hollies is most remembered for his feat against Bradman. But one glance at his career will show how he was so much more than just being a bowler who denied Bradman a perfect 100.

Hollies played for England in 13 Tests spanned over 15 years where he returned 44 wickets at an average of 30.27. He made his debut in a Test series against the West Indies where he picked up 10 wickets in three matches at 21.70. However, the next Test that he played for England was only 12 years later, in 1947, against South Africa.

Next year, in 1948 he returned figures of 8/107 for Warwickshire against the touring Australians in the first innings which included the wicket of Bradman. In the Ashes that followed, he was included only for the fifth and final Test with Australia having already taken an unprecedented 3-0 lead. The match though had a much greater appeal with Bradman strutting for one last time.

The start of the Test at the Oval, in Manchester was delayed by a wet outfield and when play did start England were knocked over for 52 in 42.1 overs. By the time Bradman walked out to bat, Australia had already taken a 65-run lead. The whole of the Oval was up on its feet to welcome Bradman, while the England captain called for three cheers. Bradman later revealed that the reception had indeed made him very anxious.

"That reception had stirred my emotions very deeply and made me anxious - a dangerous state of mind for any batsman to be in," Bradman later wrote in Farewell to Cricket. "I played the first ball from Hollies, though not sure I really saw it."

Hollies' first delivery, a leg-break was confidently defended by Bradman. The second ball was a googly, that Bradman did not pick and Australia winning the Test by an innings and 149 runs meant he did not get a second crack.

"It looked to me as though he had decided it was a leg-break, and that he would let the ball turn away from him," Hollies wrote later. "However, [it was the googly] and the ball turned in just enough to pass the edge of his bat and hit the middle and off stumps."

While his appearances for England were staggered, it was for Warwickshire where Hollies really shone. He served the County for 25 years from 1932 to 1957 and by the time he retired, he had taken more wickets than any other bowler for Warwickshire - a staggering 2201.

His best performance for them was in 1946 when he took all 10 wickets in an innings against Nottinghamshire and that too without the help of a fielder (seven bowled and three lbw). He returned nine wickets in an innings on two occasions and eight wickets seven times. In the 1951 season, his 151 wickets at 17.59 helped Warwickshire win their first Championship in 40 years. Hollies was named one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 1955.

By the time he retired in 1957, Hollies had made 515 first-class appearances where he picked up 2323 wickets at 20.94 striking every 56.2 balls. He had 182 five-wicket hauls and 40 ten-wicket hauls to his credit. Another thing associated with Hollies was that he was absolutely ineptitude with the bat. He ended his first-class career with 1673 runs much less than the number of wickets he took.

Hollies passed away in Chinley, Derbyshire in April 1981, at the age of 68.

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