Cricketers pick their favourites

'On wet pitches Deadly was his name'

Part four: Geoff Boycott picks the English left-arm spinner Derek Underwood who rarely bowled a bad ball and put pressure on batsmen with his accuracy (00:00)

Producer: Ranjit Shinde

February 28, 2012


Derek Underwood

'On wet pitches Deadly was his name'

February 28, 2012

Derek Underwood bowling
Derek Underwood: no problem bowling on flat pitches © Getty Images

People may be surprised that I have chosen another spinner, Derek Underwood, Kent and England.

I first came across Derek when he came into the Kent side in the early 1960s, and he bowled left-arm cutters over the wicket. Now, in English cricket then we were playing on uncovered pitches. So sometimes it was a flat, good bating pitch, but in quite a lot of the games there was bit in it for the spinners or a bit in it for the seamers. When it rained overnight or during the day, the rain fell on the pitch - the foot holes were covered but not the pitch itself - he became absolutely unique.

Once the pitch got wet, sometimes very wet, soggy… if you try to bowl a spinner then it doesn't turn, it just skids on. Only when it starts to dry out and become tacky, does spin take effect. Now Derek just didn't bowl spinners, he bowled cutters. He cut the ball quicker than a spinner and he ripped pieces out of the wet pitch. The ball would jump alarmingly all over the place, and he was very difficult to play.

I remember the first time I came across him he was bowling left-arm over the wicket, and the only shot I could think of playing against him if he pitched outside leg stump, is to have a hit at him… what we would call a sweep or slog-sweep, because if he pitched outside leg then he couldn't get you out lbw.

Then after that obviously the Kent people talked to him that he would be more effective if he bowled around the wicket. He went around the wicket, took him a little while to just get used to it… he could bowl on dry turners, he could bowl on the wet, uncovered pitches. Just remember he bowled Australia out at The Oval in 1968 when there was only an hour and half left on the last day.

He bowled so accurately, so tight and mean, and very few four-balls. He created his own pressure without anybody at the other end because he didn't give you any runs. In fact, as a fielder when I was fielding for him for England, if any of us fielders allowed the batsman to steal a single then he would glare at you. He never shouted or said anything, but he hated people pinching singles, because he knew that he wasn't going to them easy four-balls, they'd have to work hard for it and if they played a good shot, then fine, he accepted that. But he didn't like them pinching singles, especially if the fielders were a little bit asleep or a bit slow in stopping it.

On wet pitches, Deadly was his name … Derek Underwood was unplayable, really was. Remember a match against Kent, and it was raining. We sat in the pavilion and we said joking to him, "Deadly, what do you think, this rain… 6 for 40 you will get?" He said, "Yeah, but if it rains for another hour, I will get 7 for 20."

I thought he was a great bowler because he could bowl on the flat pitches. Had the mentality to bowl over after over, to be miserly, to give nothing away, and to do a great job of attacking the batsman but keeping the runs down on good pitches. He wasn't just a bowler who only bowled on pitches when it was in his favour. He was a truly great bowler, he got nearly 300 wickets and if he hadn't gone to the Packer Series for two-three years then he would have got more wickets. He just had the mentality and the skill to bowl in all conditions.

Posted by   on (February 28, 2012, 18:24 GMT)

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