Keith Miller plays at Glenpark

Towards the end of World War two, a team was formed of Australians stationed in the UK with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). They played a number of friendlies in England in 1943 and 1944 and so successful were they that in 1945 after the Nazi surrender it was decided to bring together an Australian Services XI to take on England in a five-match series - the Victory Tests.

The RAAF team continued to play as a team and after the third Victory Test, which the Australians had won to take a 2-1 lead in the series, they played a number of games in the north of England and Scotland. A two-day encounter with Yorkshire was followed by four one-day fixtures on the bounce. The first of these was against Durham, after which they travelled to Selkirk to play a Scottish Services XI and from there they moved on to Greenock to take on a select XI from the Club before finishing their short tour with a match against a Scotland XI at Hamilton Crescent.

Greenock choose strong select side

Quite why Greenock were included in this itinerary is not known. It does seem strange that a fixture with a club side should be included amongst matches against county and representative sides. Not unsurprisingly, the match engendered huge interest amongst local supporters and given the quality of play shown by the Australians in the Victory Tests, Greenock strengthened their team with a number of leading players from other clubs for the fixture which was played at Glenpark on Friday 27th July 1945.

George Tough captained the team and four other members of the Club were included, Arthur Neill, Bert Tobin and Willie Muir along with the emergence from retirement of John Kerr. Bob Hodge who had moved to Fifeshire from Greenock (what a loss he was!) at the end of 1939 was picked as was Reg Hollingdale, professional at Glenpark from 1931 to 1937 until he moved to Grange. Hodge brought with him from Fifeshire, the internationalist Bill Heggie who would join Greenock in 1946 while the professionals, Bob Winrow of Drumpellier and Stanley Walker of Ferguslie and the internationalist Arthur Plowright of Stewart Melville FPs and occasionally of Greenock, made up the eleven.

Keith Miller the big draw

The RAAF team included five members of the Australian Services XI who had won the third Victory Test, Jim Workman, Keith Miller, Keith Carmody, Bob Cristofani and Reg Ellis while Jack Pettiford was a member of their 15-man squad. Keith Miller was the main draw card of the team, his flamboyant performances with the bat in the Victory Tests having enthused all those who witnessed them. He had a somewhat chequered career in the RAAF, finding it difficult at times to accept authority but his courage could not be questioned and he survived a number of near misses during his time as a Flying Officer.

Miller would go on to become one of the most famous names in the game. His partnership with Ray Lindwall gave Australia one of their most potent bowling attacks while his aggressive batting was capable of changing the course of a game in short time. Off the field he was known as someone who lived life to the full, relishing it after a number of brushes with death during the war. He also became firm friends with Denis Compton who shared his free-going outlook on life.

Keith Carmody was the other member of the team who would go on to have a career in the game, becoming captain of Western Australia. He was a fine bat and an outstanding captain and found fame on his way back from the UK to Australia in the latter part of 1945. In a series of four unofficial tests against India, Carmody captained the Services team and in response to edged deliveries evading an orthodox field, deployed an arc of eight fielders from gully to leg gully, the first instance of the umbrella field and which was known as the Carmody field for some time after.

Start delayed

Play in the match was scheduled to start at 2.15pm and finish at around 8pm but in the event it did not commence until nearer 3.30pm as the bus bringing the Australians from Selkirk took a wrong turning at one point in the journey to Greenock. As a result it was decided that the game would last for four hours, both sides batting for two hours.

Over 2000 spectators crammed into Glenpark for the game, which was played in fine weather. Of that number, some 600 were estimated to have travelled from Dunoon and Rothesay. One sad note occurred before the game started when an elderly spectator collapsed and died but, perhaps surprisingly, this did not stop the game from going ahead.

The RAAF XI made a slow but steady start to their innings, just twenty runs coming in the same number of minutes as Workman and Craig faced the bowling of Hodge and Hollingdale. The Greenock Telegraph reported that "Workman quickly settled down and treated the spectators to a delightful display. His accurate placing of the ball gained many runs, and his varied off drives and leg cuts had the fielders guessing." It is no wonder they were left guessing by leg cuts, whatever they were!

Rapid scoring at end of RAAF innings

Several bowling changes followed but it was the return of Hodge that saw the first wicket falling as he bowled Craig with the total on 67. Heggie dismissed Pettiford, who would go on to have a successful county career with Kent, for just 7 but the 100 came up after 75 minutes. Workman was eventually bowled by Hodge for 69, which included ten 4s but this only resulted in a dramatic increase in the run-rate. Miller played a cameo innings of 23 which included the first six of the game, struck into Bedford Lane, before Tobin took a fine catch on the boundary to dismiss him. Carmody and Williams maintained the impetus, the former scoring 46 with seven 4s before being caught behind and the innings closed on 210 for 5, the last 110 runs having been scored in just forty-five minutes.

John Kerr, at the ripe old age of 60, opened the batting for Greenock with Heggie but he did not last long, being caught at short leg. The Telegraph stated that he "with 5 to his credit, jabbed at a spin ball (from Roper) which rose off his bat into the waiting hands of Carmody". Roper was a fast-medium bowler so perhaps it was his slower ball that did the trick. Heggie and Walker now combined in an entertaining partnership which took the total to 55 before Walker was caught by Roper in the slips for 23.

This dismissal heralded a run of wickets with Winrow and Tobin falling cheaply after Heggie was caught for 27. The total was now 78 for 5 but Arthur Neill and Bob Hodge brought the 100 up at which score Hodge was bowled for 14 but not before he had hit Greenock's only six of their innings. Hollingdale contributed 13 and Neill was the last to fall, bowled by the left-arm spin of Ellis for the top score of the innings, 37. The innings closed with Plowright and Tough at the crease with the score on 146 for 8 and the Australians had won by 64 runs.

A feature of the game was the fine fielding of the Australians with their sharp returns to the keeper drawing the admiration of the spectators.

RAAF defeat Scotland at Hamilton Crescent

After the game, both teams travelled to Glasgow where a dinner was held in the Beresford Hotel. On the next day, the Australians met a Scotland XI in front of 8000 spectators at Hamilton Crescent. The Australians fielded a side with eight of the team that had beaten England in the third Victory Test but were dismissed for just 149. Bob Hodge took 4 for 49 and Willie Nichol of Kelburne 3 for 20 but the Scots were unable to force the win, being bowled out for 90 in reply, Roper taking 6 for 29.

To entertain the spectators, the RAAF XI batted again and this time, Miller, who made only 9 in the first innings before being yorked by Hodge, showed his true colours, hitting 67 in 35 minutes, which included six 6s, three in succession off the Scottish captain, Fleming. To keep the game going, Fleming at one point had three balls beside him. After Miller's last six, Fleming bowled two balls together, one being hit away and the other bowling him! Apparently Willie Nichol did not treat the game so lightly and he bowled Miller with a fine ball.


Royal Australian Air Force XI
JA Workman   b Hodge 69
H Craig   b Hodge 16
J Pettiford   b Heggie 7
KR Miller c Tobin b Plowright 23
DK Carmody * c Muir b Hodge 46
EA Williams not out 29
DR Cristofani not out 9
RS Ellis      
AW Roper      
CD Bremner +      
P Pearson      
Extras     11
TOTAL      210 for 5
Bowler R W  
RS Hodge 68 3    
WR Heggie 21 1    
AV Plowright 29 1    
John Kerr c Carmody b Roper 5
WR Heggie c Roper b Ellis 27
SG Walker c Roper b Cristofani 23
BJ Tobin c Miller b Pearson 4
R Winrow lbw b Cristofani 4
A Neill   b Ellis 37
RS Hodge   b Pearson 14
RA Hollingdale   b Pettiford 13
AV Plowright not out 8
GH Tough * not out 1
W Muir +      
Extras     10
TOTAL      146 for 8
Bowler R W  
P Pearson 19 2    
RS Ellis 20 2    
DR Cristofani 49 2    
AW Roper 5 1