Cricket: Brothers born in Australia but bred for England

Despite their Australian background, Adam and Ben Hollioake have benefited from an English cricketing education. David Llewellyn reports
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The Independent Online
The roots are Australian. So is the attitude, accent and approach. But after a week in which the Hollioake brothers have helped tranform English morale in the build-up to the Ashes series, traditionalists can take comfort in one aspect of Adam and Ben's background. They are typically English when it comes to their cricket education.

The Hollioake parents, John and Daria, are Australian and both sons were born in Melbourne. But both Adam and Ben have lived here for more than a decade. They were schooled in this country, and - somewhat ironically given the current concern about the development of young talent here - their cricketing skills were brought on in England nurseries.

For this reason they regard themselves as English, with Adam becoming especially fierce when his allegiance is challenged. "I learned all my cricket over here," he has said. "Why should you want to give another country credit for what England has done for me?" He took particular pride in leading England A on a triumphant tour of Australia last winter.

He had already made his England debut in one-day internationals by then, against Pakistan last summer, and his selection this time around raised few eyebrows. Ben's, however, did. Even Mike Edwards, Surrey's director of cricket development, who has been as close as anyone to the Hollioakes during their formative years, admitted yesterday: "I've been a little surprised at the progress Ben has made."

But, after Adam's two half centuries and Ben bravura 63 in 48 balls in the one-day internationals, Edwards is in no doubt about where the pair are headed. "Adams is a Test class batsman," he said. "And Ben has the potential to become a Test all-rounder."

John Abrahams, who as coach to the England Under-19 side watched Ben shine on the tour to Pakistan last winter, also predicts a glittering future for the 19-year-old. "He has the potential to be a genuine all- rounder at Test level," the former Lancashire captain said yesterday.

"He can be someone who can hold down a place as a bowler or as a batsman and he is not a bad fielder either. He has a lot of self-belief and confidence but that doesn't mean his arrogant about his abilities - he just backs himself. He is mature both physically and mentally.

"He wants to play and he wants to better himself. On a couple of occasions in Pakistan he got a couple of niggling injuries and other people would have said they were not fit enough to play."

Edwards' knowledge of the brothers allows him to see the contrasts as well as the similarities. "In attitude they are different," he said. "There is an air of menace to Adam when he is out in the middle. He is more intense. Ben is more laid back."

Adam - not surprisingly perhaps for someone with an A-levels in philosophy - appears to be the greater thinker about the game. Ben is still in a carefree spirit. But they both possess a sense of humour. The message on Adam's mobile phone answer service give the impression that he is speaking: "Hello," a pause, "hello," as if he can't quite hear the caller, then a snigger and the instruction to leave a message since he is not actually available.

Edwards recalled that Adam first came to Surrey's notice when he was 12 and a pupil at St George's School, Weybridge. "He was a fast bowler then. But a back injury in his late teens, something which Ben also suffered but a littler earlier in his case, meant Adam could not bowl as fast after it was operated on. He turned to batting." Ben's bowling has not suffered in the same way even though he underwent corrective surgery for a stress fracture.

These days Adam insists that he is a one-day all-rounder, but just a batsman in the first-class game. (As Surrey's 25-year-old captain, he is able to play himself as he sees best.) Adam admits that Ben, who played the first of his five first-class games last summer, possesses more natural ability. "I have to work at my game," Adam has said. "It all comes naturally to Ben."

But while both have learned their cricketing basics over here, that hard-nosed, hard-headed, hard-eyed, typically Southern Hemisphere approach which has helped establish them in the Surrey senior set-up has been further enhanced in one of the best finishing schools in the game: winters spent playing grade cricket in Australia.

Yesterday the brothers were at Bexley Cricket Club in Kent to take part in a charity six-a-side tournament, organised in memory of the Surrey wicketkeeper Graham Kersey, who died during the winter. The Hollioakes were particularly fond of Kersey and joined the rest of the Surrey squad to help raise money for cricket for the blind. After the glory of Lord's they were back where they belong. Among English cricket's grass roots.

Adam Hollioake

1971 Born Melbourne, 5 September.

1984 Moved to England from family home in Perth.

1989 Taken on Surrey staff, tours Australia with the county's Young Cricketers team.

1990 Tours New Zealand with England Young Cricketers.

1992 Makes Surrey one-day debut.

1993 First-class debut for Surrey against Derbyshire. Scores a century.

1996 International debut at Edgbaston in Texaco Trophy against Pakistan. Captain of England A tour to Australia.

1997 Appointed captain of Surrey. Hits winning runs in all three of England's Texaco Trophy victories over Australia.

Ben Hollioake

1977 Born Melbourne, 11 November.

1984 Moved to England with family.

1990 Picked for England Under-14 side.

1991 Picked for England Under-15 side.

1993 Returns to Australia with parents as Adam stays to play for Surrey.

1994 Returns to England after being offered a contract with Surrey.

1996 Becomes youngest 18 year old, to take five wickets in Sunday League. First-class debut for Surrey against Yorkshire, takes 4 for 74. Plays for England Under-19s against NZ and Pakistan.

1997 Plays for England in Texaco Trophy against Australia as the youngest player, aged 19, to represent England since Brian Close in 1949.