The Australian Years

The Australian Years

Glamorgan’s matches against the touring teams at Swansea over the August Bank Holiday were often billed as the Extra Test match of the summer as the tourists met the Welsh county, surrounded in an amphitheatre-like setting, by a large and partisan side, all wanting to see their local heroes lower the colours of the visitors.

During the 1960s the St. Helen’s ground saw Glamorgan become the first, and so far only, county team to defeat the Australians on back-to-back tours. The first victory, by a young Glamorgan team led by Ossie Wheatley, saw the youngsters wearing the daffodil sweaters defeat the men in baggy green caps by 36 runs. It wasn’t just the thousands of supporters inside the ground who were willing on the Glamorgan team as the National Eisteddfod was being held just a mile or so down the road from the Swansea ground and, with the organisers showing great enterprise in arranging for television screens to be placed around the tented village, the sets drew an ever-increasing crowd as word spread around the maes of Glamorgan’s progress.

The two teams had also made an appearance on the Eisteddfod stage on the Saturday evening and it was no surprise that when the last Australian wicket fell, it prompted a very Celtic celebration with what seemed like half the population of the Principality surging onto the outfield to take part in something to rival anything that had taken place on the Eisteddfod field and toast an iconic moment in Welsh sporting history.

The singing starts at St.Helen’s as Glamorgan beat Australia at Swansea. Photo credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

Four years later, the champagne corks were popping again as Glamorgan, led by stand-in captain Don Shepherd, defeated the Australians by 79 runs. With regular captain Tony Lewis on the sidelines, his wily lieutenant steered his beloved county to another famous victory besides showing his crafty skills as a bowler and tactician as he left the Australians all of the final day in which to chase a target of 365. Like a Grand Master at chess, Shep cleverly rotated his bowling as Paul Sheahan, the Australian number four batsman, recorded a fighting century.

But wickets steadily fell, sometimes with bad balls, as Sheahan drilled a poor delivery from Peter Walker straight back to the bowler. His departure turned the game in Glamorgan’s favour. With the lower order exposed, and with the ball starting to turn, there was a flurry of lusty boundaries, but the fours and sixes were also accompanied by wickets as the enthusiastic Glamorgan fielders held every chance that came their way.

When Dave Renneberg holed out to Majid Khan, it was the prelude for Welsh hymns once again echoing around the ground  together with a rendition of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ as the captains gathered on the balcony. After sustained applause for ‘Shep’ in recognition of his shrewd captaincy, Barry Jarman, the Australian skipper, got the loudest cheer of the day by saying “What’s new about being beaten by Glamorgan!”

The crowd gather in front of the Swansea pavilion after Glamorgan’s historic victory over the 1968 Australians. Photo credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.