It was a British summer evening that Saturday. The Oval in London was packed with 20,000 spectators and despite England being bowled out for a dismal 52 to arch-rivals Australia, they were not going anywhere.
How could they? They were waiting to watch Don Bradman come out and display his genius for one last time. The master who had been making them toil for the last two decades.
It was 5:50 pm, August 14, 1948, when Bradman walked into the pitch amid cheers from the crowd and the English players on the field. He was on 6,996 runs and was dismissed 69 times. So, he needed just four runs to keep his average in three figures. An astronomical average, no matter what.
Australia had a 117-run opening stand, which almost ensured that they need not bat again. Eric Hollies, a 36-year old veteran leg-spinner at that time, was waiting with the ball to face the master.
Hollies did not want to play this match. He preferred to play for his county side Warwickshire because if he decided to play the dead rubber Test against Australia, he would have missed a couple of county matches. But somehow, the management managed to change his decision.
Hollies bowls the first delivery to Bradman, the Don pushes it to silly mid-off. Before he goes to bowl the next, he remembers what he realised earlier in this tour, when Australia were playing his county side. Hollies was adamant that the great Bradman did not pick his googly or the wrong'un. So Hollies did not bowl his googly in the second innings of that tour match, saving it up for some time better.
What better time than now. Hollies bowls his googly and Don misses, his stumps are clattered. Bradman walks back for zero but the crowd still applauds. After he had just shot Bradman with his silver bullet, Hollies had no time for sentiment as he said to his teammates grudging, "Best ball I have bowled all season, and they're clapping him!"
That was Eric Hollies, the man who has a stand named after him at the Edgbaston ground. The man who had only played 13 Tests for England but still has his name written in bold fonts in history.
He was the man who stopped Bradman on 99.94.
Indomitable in county, ignored by England
Hollies was born in Old Hill, Staffordshire on June 5, 1912, and was groomed for cricket by his father. He developed his love for leg-spin at a tender age and in no time, Warwickshire County Club took an interest in him.
He started playing for them in 1933 but started to bloom the next season. And that his when his Test debut came, on a tour to West Indies. Hollies picked up his career-best figures of 7-50 in the third Test at Guyana but surprisingly, his next Test cricket opportunity came almost 12 years later (No wonder he preferred Warwickshire). Despite crossing the 100-wicket mark in county cricket regularly, he was overseen and also, the second World War did not do him any favours.
In the first season after the war, Hollies managed to pick up an unbelievable 184 wickets, which included 19 five-fors and six 10-wicket hauls. He returned to the national side with a five-for against South Africa in 1947 and then came that Test in the Oval.
Does anybody remember what was Hollies' figures in that match? He picked up five wickets but was overshadowed by Bradman's farewell.
He played only six matches after that, ending his career with 44 wickets from his 13 Tests, including five five-wicket hauls.
He continued to tear batsmen apart with Warwickshire until he finally called it quits in 1957. By the time he decided to hang up his boots, he had picked up 2,323 wickets in 515 first-class matches, averaging 20.94 and had 182 five-wicket and 40 10-wicket hauls to his name. But definitely, he was a mug with the bat as he scored only 1,673 runs in his career spanning over two decades. But really, who cares for that when you can leave the batters spinning on a regular basis?
Hollies passed away on April 16, 1981, and in 1989, a stand in the Edgbaston stadium was named after him.
Hollies might be remembered as the man who stopped Don Bradman from having the holy grail. But he was more than that, a lot more than that. His resemblance to Shane Warne is uncanny and that is maybe why Bradman had invited Warne on his 90th birthday in 1998.
Well, Bradman was famed for his photographic memory and there is no doubt that he remembered the blonde guy who knocked over his stumps. And people should too, because he was far more than that one single delivery.