Hollioake, the tearaway with talent

David Llewellyn talks to the Surrey teenager ready to battle with the best
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The Independent Online
For someone who professed not to be that interested in sport in his youth, Ben Hollioake has come a long way. Surrey, England Under-19 and finally the full international one-day team for whom he made a spectacular debut with a thrilling half- century at Lord's in May.

"I never really followed cricket much," the 19-year-old younger brother of the Surrey captain, Adam Hollioake, said: "I never really followed any sport that much, apart from major events."

Yet he is possessed of a talent, which in the past has prompted Adam to say: "Ben does not have to work at his game as I do, he has natural ability." That talent got him to the private sector's centre of excellence, Millfield School in Somerset, but he was no model pupil. Recalcitrance reared its head. He was a rebel.

Even now, when asked about his interests outside the game something of the teenage abhorrence of prying adults takes over and prompts a vague, evasive answer: "Mainly just hanging around with my friends, chilling out basically."

Yet despite the cool image he likes to portray off the field - that of the streetwise youngster, for whom everything must appear effortless - when it comes to cricket, passion courses through his veins.

On the field of play he is a teenage tearaway, his aggression focused on the immediate goal of helping his team to win. And given his gifts, it is no surprise that oozes self-belief.

"I want to become a Test-class all-rounder," he said, undeterred by Surrey's dismal NatWest Trophy performance against Nottinghamshire on Wednesday. "I want to become one of the best England's ever had."

To achieve that he will definitely have to work although he does have an advantage. His upbringing, together with that of Adam was distinctly competitive. The only time the two brothers let up is, strangely, on the cricket field, although even when bowling in the nets Ben admits he will try a little harder when Adam comes in for batting practice.

Off the field they are hard at it. It is said that they have yet to complete a game of table tennis, that they get to 19-19 and go no further.

"It's the same in most things we do, just stupid stuff, really," Ben said. "Things like going from The Oval to home, if we leave at the same time whoever can get back first, you know, stuff like that; and on the Sony Playstation, we've had some mega battles on that."

But he does insist that it never becomes physical. "We never get into any rucks," he said, "but I think that a competitive edge is good for us, maybe we wouldn't be where we are today if it had not been for that."

Where they are today is Lord's for the Benson and Hedges Cup final and Ben is fairly sanguine about it. "I think having played at Lord's in the Texaco Trophy will have helped me," he said. "Remembering what I achieved might just be a nice little positive thing to keep in the back of my mind."

But Lord's can be an intimidating place especially on your international debut - Ben got lost between the England dressing-room and the crease and had to ask the way out of the Pavilion to the pitch - not to mention a Cup final.

"It might be more daunting this time than last time," he said. "When I played against Australia I didn't really notice much. Maybe this time I'll just take it in more. I want to savour every second." Now that is the talk of someone who knows exactly where he is headed, especially when he leaves the dressing-room at Lord's today.