England risk the youngest for a half century

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England's cricket selectors, not normally noted for their concessions to youth, yesterday gambled their Ashes hopes by selecting Ben Hollioake, Surrey's 19-year-old all-rounder, in the 13-man squad to play against Australia on Thursday.

If Hollioake makes the final 11 at Trent Bridge, he will become England's youngest Test cricketer since 1949, when the 18-year old Brian Close played against New Zealand, and the second youngest player selected ever.

His inclusion is a daring risk, hastened by England's parlous situation in the Ashes series. With two Tests to play, they trail Australia, who only need to draw the fifth Test to retain the Ashes, by two matches to one.

Quite simply England need attitude and Hollioake, whose brother Adam is also in the squad, has plenty. The brothers, born in Australia, moved during the Eighties when their father, an engineer, was posted to England.

But although a naturalised pom, Hollioake the younger is no stranger to the visiting Australians, who will have good cause to remember his swashbuckling innings of 63 at Lord's during the final one-day international in May. It won England the game.

"I have no divided loyalties - I definitely feel British," Ben said.

"I can't help it that I was born in Australia. I consider myself 100 per cent English, but it is an added incentive that I will make my debut against Australia, who are the unofficial world champions."

Another controlled display, this time against Kent in the Benson and Hedges Cup final, merely confirmed the suspicions that here was a brilliant, uninhibited young talent.

It is largely thanks to the unflappable manner of those efforts, that Hollioake, despite his inexperience, has been drafted in. With the Australians in ruthless form, however, only time will tell if that decision has been a premature one.

Full squad, Sport section