R.I.P. Derek Underwood (1945-2024) | In the Dark

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Another sporting hero of my youth has passed away. Derek Underwood – “Deadly” was his nickname – was a bowler like no other. Officially a left-arm orthodox spinner, with a rather flat-footed run-up, and a characteristic twist of his body as he delivered the ball at a brisk medium pace with infallible accuracy, he was not only a prolific taker of wickets but also an extremely difficult bowler to score off. He played for Kent for 24 seasons, his entire First Class career, during which he took 2,465 wickets at a remarkable average of 20.28. Underwood was a regular in the England Test side from 1966 onwards, barring an interruption when he joined Kerry Packer’s cricket circus in the 70s, and played his last Test match in 1982.

Tributes to Derek Underwood have understandably focused on his bowling, but it should be mentioned that, although of limited ability with the bat, he was a capable and stubborn night-watchman who didn’t give his wicket away easily. I remember seeing him bat in that role with great courage (and without a helmet) against Lillee and Thomson, getting struck on the body several times in the process.

When I was a kid I used to get completely absorbed watching him bowl, even on good wickets, and he never seemed to bowl badly and you could see batters getting visibly impatient at his refusal to bowl them a ball they could hit. Here is a little tribute video produced by Kent Cricket Club, with action mostly from the 1960s: you can see what a handful he was when he could use his pace to extract extra bounce from the pitch.

Rest in Peace Derek Underwood (1945-2024)

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