Holland an unlikely Aussie cricket hero

With grey-tinged hair and long-sleeves buttoned at the wrist, Bob Holland was an unlikely hero in a macho era of Australian cricket.

Holland, who died on Sunday aged 70, hardly fitted the 1980s stereotype of the Australian cricketer.

He became Australia's third-oldest man to win a Test cap in 1984 - aged 38 years, 35 days.

Nicknamed Dutchy, Holland got his baggy green cap in an era of hard-men like Allan Border and David Boon, just after the retirements of legendary trio Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh and Greg Chappell.

A mild-mannered legspinner, Holland could barely hold a bat - he averaged 3.18 in his 11 Tests, making seven ducks and only once reaching double figures.

But his spinners helped unravel the might of the West Indies in spectacular fashion in a Sydney Test in December 1984.

The Windies had already - again - secured the Frank Worrell Trophy by winning the first three Tests, followed by a draw.

Holland had made his debut in the first Test but the final match was on his home deck in Sydney, a traditional turning wicket.

"NSW had played the West Indies before the Test series started in Sydney, on a turning wicket,'' Holland said in 2015.

"NSW won outright ... so we were thinking 'wait until we get back to Sydney and we'll see how we go'."

The ageing spinner claimed match figures of 10-144 - six first-innings victims followed by four in the second dig - as Australia banked a then-rare triumph against its long-time tormenters.

Holland celebrated long and hard with his Australian colleagues, including his NSW spin partner Murray Bennett.

He recalled a few years ago that the pair was collected by a chauffeur the next morning to do the television breakfast rounds.

"'We were picked up at about 5.30am, extremely early after a heavy night of celebrations, he told the Newcastle Herald in 2015. "It's fair to say Murray and I were a bit bleary-eyed.

Holland would only play another eight Tests - the last in January 1986 - and he finished with 34 wickets at an average of 39.76.

He continued for NSW until playing the last of his 95 first-class games in 1989.

But Holland kept playing in lower NSW grades with Southern Lakes, now known as Toronto Workers' Club, where he was club president for 16 years and also held posts as treasurer, secretary, coach and groundsman.

Holland's input to the sport was acknowledged when awarded an Order of Australia Medal for service to cricket in January this year (eds: 2017).

He is survived by his wife Carolyn and children Craig, Rohan and Naomi.

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