Cricket world mourns death of Ben Hollioake

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The Independent Online

The Hollioake family had spent a congenial evening in a Perth restaurant, marking the end of an annual visit by Ben and Adam, the Australian-born England cricketer brothers. They set off in convoy and then parted ways, heading for their respective abodes.

Yesterday three bunches of flowers lay at the spot where 24-year-old Ben died after his car spun out of control and crashed into a brick wall shortly after midnight. The black Porsche 924 was a mangled wreck. Hollioake's long-term girlfriend, 22-year-old Janaya Scholten, was in Royal Perth Hospital with severe head and chest injuries.

The cause of the crash was not immediately apparent. The weather was good, it was a clear night and the road was well-lit. Police, who have launched an investigation, said there was no suggestion that alcohol played a part.

As the cricketing world mourned the untimely death of one of England's most promising young talents, Hollioake's family were racked with grief. His sister, Eboni, was travelling in the car behind with her boyfriend, Luke. "She saw the crash and could do nothing about it," their father John said last night.

Adam, 30, who played alongside his brother for Surrey and England, said the family were "totally devastated". He and Ben – hailed as the new Ian Botham after he scored 63 runs during his first one-day international at Lord's at the age of 19 – were on holiday in Perth after playing for England in a one-day series in New Zealand.

The news was relayed during lunch to horrified team-mates playing the second Test in the New Zealand capital, Wellington. Players observed a minute's silence and the England flag at Basin Reserve was lowered to half-mast. The England captain, Nasser Hussain, and his fellow batsman, Mark Ramprakash, resumed their innings wearing black armbands.

Hussain said later that it had been difficult to play after learning of the death of Hollioake, who represented England in two Tests and 20 one-day internationals. "Cricket is a side-issue when you've just lost a friend who only a few weeks ago we were mucking around with, having dinner with and having a laugh with," he said. "He was a bloody good bloke."

Born in Melbourne, Hollioake moved to Perth with his family and then migrated to England. He became the youngest player to represent England since Brian Close in 1949 when he was called up for the one-day squad in 1997. He and Adam, now the Surrey captain, made their Test debuts together at Trent Bridge later that year.

Hollioake – whose second Test appearance was against Sri Lanka in 1998 – was mourned yesterday by Australians, who claimed him as one of their own. He returned to Australia in 1994, but went back to England in 1996 after being offered another contract with Surrey.

Botham, who is in New Zealand as a commentator, was among those who paid tribute to Hollioake. Asked whether the all-rounder – who failed to build on his early success – would have become a major star, he said: "You never know now, and that's the sad thing. There was no doubt he had a lot of talent and ability."

The England coach, Duncan Fletcher, said Hollioake had been in the running for next year's World Cup squad. "He was a popular member of the side and he will be greatly missed by everyone in the England dressing room," he said. "It's tragic that a young life has been lost this way."

The England cricket coach David Lloyd, who gave Hollioake his chance at international level, said: "You would be hard-pressed to find a more popular lad anywhere in cricket. This is absolutely devastating news for everyone who knew him. He gave you the impression of being laid back, but there was no one who worked harder at their game."

The flags at The Oval, the home of Surrey Cricket Club, were flying at half-mast yesterday. The club's chief executive, Paul Sheldon, said everyone who knew him was completely numb.

"This great flower that was blossoming in the sunshine has been snuffed out in his prime," he said. "It's devastating, it's sad, it's a dreadful, dreadful loss. He had a prodigious talent."

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