Cricket: Hollioake clearly not the man for the job

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IT MIGHT have The Oval last August. With the Ashes well and truly lost and the Australians a trifle demob happy, England won the sixth Test by 19 runs. Now, with the Texaco Trophy safely under lock and key in the South African dressing-room, England turned it on again.

Of course, it helps remove the nasty taste of the defeats at The Oval and Old Trafford, but the danger is that it will leave those concerned a chance to avoid the truth. This victory will give too many people a smokescreen to hide behind.

It would be madness to continue the Adam Hollioake experiment. Sadly, he has allowed himself to become as unimaginative and boring as all the others who have captained England in recent years.

The captain from Sharjah last December who loved to take a risk and led by buoyant example, has long since vanished.

In the first two matches now, it was Hansie Cronje who took the risk and attacked; it was Hollioake who trod the party line. Since leaving Sharjah, Hollioake has ceased to be his own man. He goes on to the field as if wrapped in consensus politics. The reason for the split captaincy has gone and Alec Stewart should do it all.

At Old Trafford, when South Africa were 166 for 7, 10 overs remained. Darren Gough still had three to bowl and an intrepid captain would have brought back Gough at once and backed him to finish off the innings. Instead, Hollioake gave himself two overs first which cost 13 runs and gave the batsmen confidence and made it harder for Gough a little later.

What about the planning too? There are enough advisers in the camp and it should have been imprinted on every batsman's mind that he must always be certain where Jonty Rhodes is fielding and be told never to run if the ball goes within five yards of him on either side.

What happened? When Hollioake and Stewart had batted England back into the match, Hollioake played the ball to Rhodes at midwicket, ran and Stewart was run out by a couple of yards.

Then there are the bit-part players who did a good job with both bat and ball on those lifeless pitches in the desert. But in more testing conditions in the Caribbean and now in England they have not been up to it when the pressure was at its tightest.

A lot of rethinking needs to be done and with the World Cup less than a year away, all too little time remains. It is extremely important that this consolation victory at Headingley is not allowed to distort the truth. It was nothing more than another classic case of pinching the enemy's clothes after the war has been lost.