The following extract, regarding the M.C.C.’s visit to play a cricket match against a combined Gippsland team at the Yallourn Oval, was published in the ‘The Argus’ (Melbourne) in February 1955.
When the Gippsland XI was announced, two well-known and popular cricketing identities of Yallourn, Dick Sagar (wicketkeeper) and Ken Grant (fast bowler), were named in the team.
The local cricket clubs were buoyed by the inclusion of Dick and Ken; and the fact that two Yallourn cricketers were playing against the tourists added another dimension to the eagerly anticipated event. The people of Yallourn were chuffed that the Australian Cricket Board had chosen ‘their oval’ as the venue for the tour match; and it is fair to say that Dick and Ken were ‘local heroes’ around town.
The visit by Len Hutton’s team generated a deal of interest in Yallourn; and, as a consequence, there were several articles regarding the town and the picturesque oval in the local and metropolitan newspapers.
Yallourn’s Curator of Parks and Gardens, Jock Lawson, received accolades for the outstanding job that he (and his staff) had done in preparing the turf pitch, outfield and surrounds …
“The English cricketers, visiting pressmen and commentators, Australian and international, had nothing but praise for the Yallourn Oval, which they described as the best country ground they have ever seen on tour.” ‘Morwell Advertiser.’
In 1970, Jock Lawson was awarded an MBE for his services to the town of Yallourn; and he will always be remembered, by cricket lovers far and wide, for the world-class standards of the pitch and outfield for the match that year.
Thousands of spectators witnessed the match; and it was necessary to erect temporary ‘scaffold stands’ to accommodate the crowd that attended one of the most famous sporting events in Yallourn’s history.
Former Yallourn resident, prominent local cricketer and administrator, John White (a recipient of the coveted Cricket Victoria Award in 2013) has included a complete score-sheet of the match in his book ‘Coaldust and Cricket’ which was published in 2012.
The photograph of Ken Grant and Dick Sagar, which accompanies this story, was included in John’s book; and other photos and articles regarding the Yallourn Cricket Club can be found on this website.
Note: A story about Jock Lawson and his family can also be found on this website.


Yallourn, Friday. Country people will travel hundreds of miles to see England's triumphant Ashes winning team play a Victorian Country X1 here this weekend.
A half-holiday has been granted on Monday, and the subject cricket was on the lips of almost everyone here today. District banks and schools will be closed from noon, and the few business houses which remain open are likely to be short-staffed. It is estimated that between eight to 10 thousand people will see the match.
The weather is now perfect and warming up.
The curator ‘Jock’ Lawson and his assistant Alf White vow they will have the wicket in first-class condition. Covers will be used before and during the match in the event of rain.
Elaborate preparations have been made to cope with a big crowd, including the erection of a new stand for an additional 1,200 people and a spacious parking area. At their request no civic reception was held when the Englishmen arrived today.
Teams are:
England: Hutton (Capt.), Edrich, Evans, Appleyard, Compton, Wardle, Simpson, Wilson, Graveney, Loader, Bedser, Andrew.
Country team: G. Bath (Rutherglen), R. Walker (Dandenong), L. Holyoak (Ballarat), N. Chapman (Geelong), R. Milne (Traralgon, capt.), C. Miles (Leongatha, vice-capt.), L. Baker (Leongatha), B. Tozer (Warragul), W. Young (Stratford), R. Sagar (Yallourn), K. Grant (Yallourn), R. McIndoe (Leongatha), 12th man.

1. The Victorian Country XI made 182 runs in the first innings with Bill Young, from Stratford, making a well complied 56 against some fine pace bowling. Bill also played 94 games with St Kilda Football Club and was regarded as one of Gippsland’s finest all-round sportsmen.

2. England’s opening fast bowler Peter Loader captured five wickets and spinner Johnny Wardle snared the wickets of four ‘Gippslanders.’

3. Yallourn’s representatives in the match, Dick Sagar and Ken Grant, faced world-class bowling that day; and, in the first innings, Dick made two runs and Ken was bowled by Johnny Wardle for a duck.

4. Dick Sagar was the wicket keeper for the Country XI that day. Throughout his cricket career, Dick’s glove work was superlative; and his sure hands and nimble footwork gave all bowlers great confidence. Prior to the selection of the Gippsland team, Dick received praise for his brilliant performance in the CGCA match against Morwell Imperials…
“ Yallourn Keepers Stumps Three - One Catch …With three stumpings and a catch, Yallourn keeper, Dick Sagar, on Saturday must have gone a long way to clinching his place as 'keeper for the Country XI scheduled to meet the English tourists at Yallourn on February 5th and 7th.” ‘Morwell Advertiser’ December 13th 1954.

5. England’s star studded batting line-up included: Sir Leonard Hutton ( 75 runs), Tom Graveney ( 50), Bill Edrich (36) and, one of England’s most famous sporting heroes, Denis Compton made 24 runs. The M.C.C. batsmen compiled 300 runs with comparative ease; and, although Yallourn’s big-hearted opening bowler Ken Grant failed to take a wicket, he took a catch to dismiss Godfrey Evans.

6. In the second innings, Johnny Wardle cast a spell on the Gippsland batsmen and claimed seven wickets for 45 runs in a superb exhibition of spin bowling. Johnny was a slow left arm orthodox bowler and could bowl the ‘Chinaman’ with great effect. He captured 102 wickets in Test cricket. Johnny, from Yorkshire, had a wonderful sense of humour; and his interaction with the crowd at Yallourn was unforgettable.
Young and old alike, crowded along the boundary fence to talk with Johnny and he became an ‘overnight celebrity’ in Yallourn. Locals enjoyed his sense of humour and his rapport with the crowd was memorable. Godfrey Evans and Reg Simpson also proved very popular characters with the spectators.

7. One of the highlights of Gippsland’s second innings was when Yallourn’s Ken Grant lofted a ball from Johnny Wardle ‘high, wide and handsome’ over the fence. It was a ‘big six’ and it gave the spectators at the Yallourn Oval something to remember despite the Gippsland team’s disappointing performance at the batting crease.

8. One of the BBC’s finest cricket commentators, Charles Fortune, was in the visiting party. The commentators broadcasted the match from a table, under the shade a large gum tree, on the hillside overlooking the ground. It is documented that Arthur Gilligan and the ABC’s renowned sports commentator of that era, Noel Bailey, were also at Yallourn for the match…
“…A.B.C. commentators will be Charles Fortune, Arthur Gilligan and Noel Bailey. Four special enclosures and tables will accommodate the pressmen.” ‘The Argus’ February 3rd 1955.

9. As mentioned in ‘The Argus’ the school children of Yallourn were given a half-day holiday to attend the match; but is known that some students ‘lost their way’ and ‘ended up’ at the Yallourn swimming pool.

10. The M.C.C.’s stop-over at Yallourn also included a special Cricketers’ Church Service at St John’s Church and the pews were packed…
“Following the service, the congregation enjoyed a social hour and a welcome was extended by Don Francis (St John’s CC), Dick Sagar (Yallourn CC) and Dick Swainsbury (Monash CC). Appreciation of the welcome received at Yallourn was given by Arthur Gilligan, Alec Bedser and Vic Wilson.” Source: ‘Coaldust and Cricket’ by John White. Page: 94.

11. Mr Don Francis, as mentioned above, is the father of Julie George (Secretary of Yallourn Association and administrator of this website). Not only was Don Francis actively involved in local cricket but he was also an enthusiastic member of the Yallourn Golf Club. Don Francis and Arnold Sambell were instrumental in initiating an ambitious project to extend the buildings at the golf course in 1965.

12. There were two very competitive cricket clubs in Yallourn in that era (St John’s and Yallourn). In the mid 1950’s, a new cricket team, named the Yallourn Colts came into being. In 1957, the Colts, captained by *Norm Byrne (owner-manager of the Yallourn delicatessen-see below) defeated the Yallourn-St John’s XI to win the CGCA Grand Final. In 1958-59, St John’s merged with Yallourn CC.

13. Yallourn was probably the only place in the world where cricketers, requiring a new bat, would need to visit a delicatessen. Norm Byrne always had on hand a selection of bats and cricket gear in the storeroom of his shop.

The above story is part of an on-going project regarding the history of Yallourn. The story was researched and written by Roger Spaull and presented and posted by Julie George for the Virtual Yallourn website in January 2018.
The above article from ‘The Argus’ newspaper has been faithfully reproduced. The only amendments to the original copy are the font style, font size and spacing, so as to enhance the article for purposes of posting on the Virtual Yallourn website.