AIF XI grace Glenpark

When the First World War ended in November 1918, there were thousands of Australian servicemen in Europe and many remained there into the following spring. A proposal was put forward to form a touring team from their number, initially to play a series of test matches against England. These matches did not materialise as some of the leading Australian cricketers, such as Charlie McCartney, withdrew but the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) Touring XI was formed in early May, initially under the captaincy of the pre-war Test player, Charlie Kelleway. After six games, he left the squad following a number of clashes with authority and the rest of the squad elected Herbie Collins in his place as captain, despite his lowly rank of Lance Corporal and the presence of seven officers in the squad.

28 first-class matches were played during the summer and a further five minor games, including three in Scotland in the first week in July. In the first of these, the Aussies amassed 733 for 6 against a Western Union select at Shawholm, having scored 638 of these runs in just four and a half hours on the first day. They went on the win by an innings and 560 runs! Two further two-day games were played against Scotland representative teams, both of which were drawn. In the first, at Raeburn Place, John Kerr captained the Scots, scoring 45 and 40*, the latter out of 79 for 8 against an attack that included Jack Gregory who would come back to terrorise England in 1921.

John Kerr invites AIF XI to Greenock

After that game, Kerr invited the Australians to visit Glenpark at some point during their 10-day break during August and a fixture was arranged for Wednesday 13th August 1919. There was a second string Australian squad that played during the summer against club sides, but it was the full strength outfit that turned up at Glenpark. In the event, three of their top players, Gregory, Bert Oldfield and John Taylor, did not play but ten of the team were members of the first string squad which played with distinction against the English counties and which lost just four of the 28 first-class matches that they played.

Nine of the team had either played first-class cricket prior to the war or would go on to do so when they returned to Australia. In addition, the captain, Herbie Collins, would be a member of the all-conquering 1921 test team and would captain the 1926 test team that toured England. Another squad member, Clarence 'Nip' Pellew would also return with the 1921 test team and would score two centuries in the tests. They were a serious team of cricketers.

Jack Murray collars Greenock attack

The game with Greenock started in less than congenial conditions with a number of showers, but none of them were heavy enough to prevent play continuing. John Kerr won the toss and invited the AIF XI to bat first. They opened with Docker and Murray but the former was dismissed by a wonderful catch by Willie Adam off Oakes' bowling. Oakes, professional at Babcock and Wilcox, had been brought into the Greenock team to strengthen it and he was joined by Poloc's professional, Ben Sandiford, but apart from these two it was Greenock's regular team that played.

Jack Murray did not let Docker's dismissal affect him and he set about the Greenock attack with great vigour. A South Australian state player, Murray could not be contained. He should have been caught by Douglas Adam off Sandiford's bowling, "palpably missed" as the Greenock Telegraph put it, but after this let-off he reached his century in just fifty minutes. After 65 minutes of outstanding batting, he was smartly stumped by David Bisset off John Kerr's bowling when he had made 121, an innings that included four sixes out of the ground and nineteen fours.

John Kerr's outstanding effort in the field

Wickets now fell at regular intervals but the score continued to increase at a rate. Kerr disappointed the crowd when he bowled Collins for just 2 but the Australians could not be subdued, going into lunch at 263 for 8. The Greenock captain captured the last two wickets just after the break, both being caught in the deep by JC Adam, and he finished with 5 for 62, his "donkey drops" being too inviting at times for the batsmen. As he was also involved in the run-out of Pellew and his fine catch in the slips accounted for Winning, he was the stand-out performer for the bowling side.

Greenock opened with John Kerr and Barnhill Walker. By now the pitch had dried out and the two openers coped with the numerous changes of bowling. Sixty was posted on the scoreboard in just 35 minutes and the century came up just fifteen minutes later. The pair were eventually separated with the score on 120, when Collins claimed his first wicket, Walker falling to a catch by Murray.

Only Kerr can stand up to Herbie Collins' bowling

Kerr continued to bat freely but at the other end nobody could cope with the wiles of Collins, bowling, as he did, off just a two-step run-up. The Telegraph stated that he "bowls cunningly, with a very easy delivery - left-hand - his balls vary every time, they break off or on at his pleasure, he varies his length, and mentally it can be seen he sizes up his opponent and finds his weak spot."

Kerr was given an ovation by the crowd, by now numbering close on 2,000, on reaching his century but he was the eighth man to fall, caught at point for 103 with the total on 170. Collins grabbed the last two wickets to finish with 8 for 39 as Greenock were dismissed for 183 to lose by 101 runs. Collins had great success with the ball for the AIF team but at the conclusion of their tour of England and South Africa hardly bowled again.

Play was scheduled to finish at 6.30 and in order to entertain the large crowd, the Australians batted again, reaching 62 for 3 with Docker not out on 30. There was success for Douglas Adam as bowled Murray for 5 and Pellew without scoring.

Coup for Greenock

In truth, the Australians won the game with ease. Their team was full of batting and several of those at the tail-end of their innings could easily have batted much higher in the order. Equally, they did not use their full-strength attack at first but as soon as Collins took the ball, the Greenock batting, apart from John Kerr, was all at sea.

This game does not feature in the records of the AIF Touring Team. Nevertheless, it was a great coup for Greenock to get this fixture and perhaps it was an indication of the esteem with which they held John Kerr that they accepted his invitation to play at Glenpark and played such a strong team.

The Australians continued their short break in Scotland by motoring up to the Highlands and they played one more game, against a North of Scotland select twelve who were no match for them, before returning down south to restart their more serious fixtures against the English counties.


Australian Imperial Forces XI
CT Docker c WM Adam b Oakes 5
JT Murray st Bisset b Kerr 121
EJ Cameron   b Sandiford 25
EA Long lbw b Oakes 10
EA Bull st Bisset b Kerr 24
HL Collins*   b Kerr 2
CS Winning c Kerr b Oakes 26
CE Pellew run out 8
CB Willis c JC Adam b Kerr 22
WL Trenerry not out 32
AW Lampard c JC Adam b Kerr 2
Extras     7
TOTAL      284
Bowler R W  
John Kerr 62 5    
Oakes 97 3    
Sandiford 37 1    
John Kerr* c Cameron b Pellew 103
JB Walker c Murray b Collins 48
JC Adam c Pellew b Collins 1
WN Walker c Pellew b Collins 2
Oakes run out 0
H Senior c Trenerry b Collins 0
Sandiford c Willis b Collins 0
RL Walker c Cameron b Collins 0
WM Adam not out 14
DB Bisset+ lbw b Collins 3
GD Adam c and b Collins 6
Extras     6
TOTAL      183
Bowler R W  
HL Collins 39 8