Cricket: Ben makes himself at home

Benson & Hedges Cup final
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The Independent Online
Kent 212-9 Surrey 215-2 Surrey win by 8 wickets

It is one of sport's enduring mythologies that certain individuals are inextricably linked to famous sporting locations. Pairings like Red Rum and Aintree, Geoff Hurst and Wembley, Steve Davis and the Crucible Theatre, are all knotted together, neither the place or performer able to be mentioned without an immediate triggering of the other.

To be thus linked is to have one's legend assured, a reality fast catching up with Ben Hollioake, whose languidly beautiful knock of 98 was the second time he'd wowed a full house at Lord's as he hurtled Surrey to victory over Kent in the Benson and Hedges Cup final.

Apart from the innings, which ranged from the suave to the brutal without ever resorting to the ways of the village artisan, the most remarkable fact was that this was only the second time the teenage Hollioake had been to Lord's. But while many prostrate themselves at the high temple, as indeed Martin McCague did, Hollioake came to sack and plunder, all spoils his, but for the two precious runs that would have allowed him to complete his century.

There have only ever been three centurions in B & H finals and Hollioake, who came to the crease in the first over of Surrey's innings, may well regret the petulance that saw him hole out, trying to loft Mark Ealham over mid-on. With Ben now a possible contender to fill Ealham's spot in the England side before the end of the summer it may be one of the few moments the Kent all-rounder can console himself with.

Until that moment, the teenage tyro had been thoughtfully shepherded by Alec Stewart, who cagily fed him the strike. It was the same role that Stewart had played during Hollioake's barnstorming 63 against Australia here seven weeks earlier in the Texaco Trophy, and it finished with similarly spectacular results.

Like the esteemed professional he is, Stewart went on to see his side home with an unbeaten 75. However, together the comparison between them was stark, and when his younger charge was out, Stewart had scored less than half his total in a stand worth 159.

Comfortably outscored, Stewart an elegant player at the worst of times, was even outfinessed, though Hollioake, his bat swinging freely like a pendulum, did not so much mug Kent's bowlers with a knuckle duster, as despatch them with a velvet glove.

Many have correctly likened his style to the loose grace of the West Indians. In fact his upright nonchalance bears a direct resemblance to the little known Caribbean Test batsman Everton Mattis, a floppy-stroked rasta who promptly disappeared after his four Tests against England in 1980.

Like Mattis, Hollioake plays above a stiff front leg, which although handy for getting the leverage to loft shots over the in-field in one- day cricket tends to cause problems in defence. If Surrey's coach Dave Gilbert, as well as England's David Lloyd, want to covert his promise into Test match reality then he must be taught to flex his left knee when playing forward.

This minor shortcoming apart Hollioake junior has once again shown a penchant for the big occasion, a situation most British teenagers tend to shrink from unless it involves mud wallowing at Glastonbury. In a way, relishing and responding to the challenge is the most important characteristic a sportsman can have and it is what Michael Atherton meant when he said that "Ben has a big match temperament."

Poor Kent, their total was deflatingly inadequate and at least 40 runs below par for the placid straw coloured pitch. They knew it too, and apart from two of their top three being on the wrong side of marginal lbw decisions, they never really competed, despite Matthew Fleming's blinding catch to remove Alistair Brown four balls into Surrey's innings.

Having done their homework, courtesy of some intensive video watching with their coach Dave Gilbert, Surrey's bowling and field settings clearly paid dividends. Only Ealham and the left-handed Nigel Llong were able to contribute the kind of runs Kent needed more of, though Llong, having got himself set, was guilty of negligence when he wafted a wide off-break from Saqlain Mustaq to Mark Butcher at short extra.

When finishes are not close, one-day cricket can be a tedious business which the impartial will nearly always find dull. Fortunately a willowy young man with mayhem on his mind was at hand to save the day, and give the nation another reminder of that marvellous early dominance England enjoyed over the Aussies. The Benson & Hedges Cup may now belong to Surrey but Lord's once again belonged to Ben Hollioake.

BENSON AND HEDGES CUP FINAL SCOREBOARD FROM LORD'S

Kent won toss

KENT

M V Fleming lbw b Lewis 7

(15 min, 7 balls, 1 four)

M J Walker b Bicknell 6

(13 min, 12 balls, 1 four)

T R Ward lbw b A Hollioake 15

(65 min, 40 balls, 2 fours)

A P Wells lbw b Bicknell 5

(14 min, 15 balls, 1 four)

N J Llong c Butcher b Saqlain 42

(89 min, 65 balls, 5 fours)

M A Ealham c Brown b Lewis 52

(110 min, 88 balls, 4 fours)

G R Cowdrey b Lewis 8

(25 min, 20 balls, 1 four)

P A Strang b Salisbury 23

(25 min, 25 balls, 2 fours)

*S A Marsh not out 24

(32 min, 23 balls, 2 fours)

M J McCague c Thorpe b Saqlain 0

(4 min, 3 balls)

D W Headley not out 3

(9 min, 3 balls)

Extras (b1 lb7 w17 nb2) 27

Total (for 9, 205 min, 50 overs) 212

Fall: 1-15 (Walker) 2-15 (Fleming) 3-23 (Wells) 4-68 (Ward) 5-106 (Llong) 6-135 (Cowdrey) 7-170 (Strang) 8-194 (Ealham) 9-198 (McCague).

Bowling: Bicknell 8-0-33-2 (nb1 w6) (one spell); Lewis 10-3-39-3 (w2) (6-3-12-1, 2-0-9-1, 2-0-18-1); A Hollioake 7-0-31-1 (w2) (4-0-13-1, 3- 0-18-0); B Hollioake 6-0-28-0 (w2) (one spell); Saqlain Mushtaq 9-1-33- 2 (w1) (6-1-19-1, 2-0-11-0, 1-0-3-1); Salisbury 10-0-40-1 (w1) (one spell).

Progress: 50: 63 min, 84 balls. 100: 112 min, 163 balls. 150: 160 min, 237 balls. 200: 198 min, 294 balls.

Ealham's 50: 104 min, 85 balls, 4 fours.

SURREY

A D Brown c Fleming b McCague 2

(3 min, 4 balls)

A J Stewart not out 75

(179 min, 124 balls, 7 fours)

B C Hollioake c Strang b Ealham 98

(125 min, 113 balls, 15 fours)

G P Thorpe not out 17

(49 min, 32 balls)

Extras (lb11 w6 nb6) 23

Total (for 2, 179 min, 45 overs) 215

Fall: 1-2 (Brown) 2-161 (B Hollioake).

Did not bat: *A J Hollioake, M A Butcher, C C Lewis, J D Ratcliffe, M P Bicknell, I D K Salisbury, Saqlain Mushtaq.

Bowling: McCague 8-0-45-1 (w1) (3-0-19-1, 2-0-10-0, 3-0-16-0); Headley 10-0-53-0 (nb3) (4-0-21-0, 2-0-7-0, 2-0-13-0, 2-0-12-0); Fleming 7-1-29- 0 (w1) (6-1-22-0, 1-0-7-0); Ealham 6-0-31-1 (w3) (3-0-20-0, 3-0-11-1); Strang 10-1-31-0 (w1) (6-1-19-0, 4-0-12-0); Llong 4-0-15-0 (one spell).

Progress: 50: 39 min, 59 balls. 100: 79 min, 114 balls. 150: 122 min, 190 balls. 200: 168 min, 255 balls.

Stewart's 50: 138 min, 90 balls, 3 fours. B Hollioake's 50: 47 min, 49 balls, 9 fours.

Surrey won by eight wickets

Man of the match: B C Hollioake.

Adjudicator: M A Atherton and D Llewellyn.

Umpires: G Sharp and D R Shepherd.

TV Replay Umpire: J W Holder.

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