Derek Underwood April 13, 2013

'Ray tries to forget he was my first wicket'

Interview by Jack Wilson
Deadly Derek looks back on his first five-for and his only century
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First time I was in awe of someone in a dressing room
When I first came into the Kent side, I was a teenager. I hadn't watched a lot of cricket, because at that age I was always playing - but I was totally in awe of Colin Cowdrey. I was in school and I had hardly seen Kent play before, but I knew he was a great player. It was an honour to play with him.

First first-class wicket
It would have been 1963. I was 17, and it wasn't a bad one actually, it was Ray Illingworth. I had him caught at cover by David Baker, who we used to call Doughie. I remember the wicket well, although I know Ray tries to forget it! We share the same birthday too, Ray and I.

First Test five-wicket haul
It was a special moment. In my first Test we were playing West Indies. I bowled quite a few overs without getting a wicket. My first wicket was Rohan Kanhai, in the second Test against them, and my first five-wicket haul came against Pakistan in my third Test. It was 1967 at Trent Bridge, and it was a wet wicket. The rain had got on the pitch and the whole ground was flooded. They were certainly bowler-friendly conditions.

First experience of World Series Cricket
I'd spent time watching and playing against the best - then I was playing in a World XI side. It was a great cricketing experience. It was obviously in a bit of a cloud, the whole World Series, but it was incredible to play in. It was a chance to play with people like Barry Richards and Zaheer Abbas. Watching Sir Viv [Richards] was magnificent too.

First century
Well, I actually only got one! It was towards the end of my career and I think it was at Hastings. I went in as a nightwatchman but I went on and on, and yes, it was a good day. It's just a shame I only got the one.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Whatsgoinoffoutthere on April 13, 2013, 15:28 GMT

    I remember seeing him bowl to Robin Smith in the County Championship game at Canterbury. One trademark cover drive, followed by one trademark fast arm-ball, right on target and with little change to an immaculate action. You don't do that to Deadly. Underwood then injured his neck and that would finish most players' involvement in the match. But he sent down over 20 overs wearing a collar on his neck in the Hampshire second innings. Only one wicket, but conceding under two an over.

    Later that season, against Warwickshire at Folkestone, he bowled 35.5 overs and conceded only 11 runs while taking 7 wickets. 29 maidens. He even had time for a (rare) no-ball in that 11 runs.

    His only century came as a night watchman a few seasons earlier and resulted in a tied game. That Hastings pitch is now a shopping centre.

    He retired at 42. I reckon he could have gone on.

  • landl47 on April 13, 2013, 3:42 GMT

    If every wicket on which cricket was played was damp, Underwood would be an automatic choice for every 'best-of' side. He was really a slow-medium pace bowler, extremely accurate and on any wicket not dead flat he was as deadly as his nickname. He'd have been an amazing T20 cricketer. Just look at his statistics- almost 2500 first-class wickets @20 apiece, 153 5-wicket hauls and 47 10-wicket matches. In tests, despite the flatter wickets, he took 297 @ 25 and would have taken a lot more had he not played in WSC and later in a rebel tour to South Africa. His economy rate of 2.1 was among the best of his time.

    No-one who saw it will ever forget the final Ashes test of 1968, when he bowled Engand to victory after the pitch was underwater at lunchtime. Certainly the present Australian chairman of selectors remembers it well- he was the last man out!

  • aus_trad on April 13, 2013, 22:22 GMT

    Derek Underwood: the most accurate bowler - period - I have seen in over 40 years of watching test cricket; and also the best bad-wicket bowler I have seen. He would also be a member of what I call my "nice guys" eleven, with the likes of Alan Knott, Max Walker, Derek Randall, Rick McCosker, Jonty Rhodes, Alvin Kallicharran, etc. The nucleus of a pretty good team! Just shows you don't have to have the Lillee-Chappell scowl or the McGrath sneer to play wonderfully well...

  • whoster on April 13, 2013, 18:31 GMT

    Deadly was a truly great spinner. He'd get bounce where others wouldn't, and the fact that he didn't turn the ball as much as some wasn't a big deal. At the pace he bowled at, a touch of turn and a touch of bounce was all he needed to be unplayable. Both his Test and First-Class statistics indicate a spin bowler of very top quality. He could've extended his Test career by the best part of a decade had he made different decisions - and then he would've been an undisputed legend of the game. Let's also not underestimate the importance of Derek having the legendary Alan Knott keeping wicket for him at Kent and England. As the first poster commented, he was also a gentleman of the game - and I'd gladly hitch a ride on the time machine to help with the mopping up back in '68!

  • cloudmess on April 13, 2013, 12:45 GMT

    Best English spinner. For me, he just shades Laker because he was still tricky on good wickets.

  • on April 13, 2013, 9:33 GMT

    His cricinfo profile has his highest test score at 45 not out!!!

  • on April 13, 2013, 9:19 GMT

    A true gentleman of the game and what a bowler. I wish I could invent a time machine only to travel back to the Oval in 1968 and help mop up before watching Deadly run through the Aussies.

  • Whatsgoinoffoutthere on April 13, 2013, 15:28 GMT

    I remember seeing him bowl to Robin Smith in the County Championship game at Canterbury. One trademark cover drive, followed by one trademark fast arm-ball, right on target and with little change to an immaculate action. You don't do that to Deadly. Underwood then injured his neck and that would finish most players' involvement in the match. But he sent down over 20 overs wearing a collar on his neck in the Hampshire second innings. Only one wicket, but conceding under two an over.

    Later that season, against Warwickshire at Folkestone, he bowled 35.5 overs and conceded only 11 runs while taking 7 wickets. 29 maidens. He even had time for a (rare) no-ball in that 11 runs.

    His only century came as a night watchman a few seasons earlier and resulted in a tied game. That Hastings pitch is now a shopping centre.

    He retired at 42. I reckon he could have gone on.

  • landl47 on April 13, 2013, 3:42 GMT

    If every wicket on which cricket was played was damp, Underwood would be an automatic choice for every 'best-of' side. He was really a slow-medium pace bowler, extremely accurate and on any wicket not dead flat he was as deadly as his nickname. He'd have been an amazing T20 cricketer. Just look at his statistics- almost 2500 first-class wickets @20 apiece, 153 5-wicket hauls and 47 10-wicket matches. In tests, despite the flatter wickets, he took 297 @ 25 and would have taken a lot more had he not played in WSC and later in a rebel tour to South Africa. His economy rate of 2.1 was among the best of his time.

    No-one who saw it will ever forget the final Ashes test of 1968, when he bowled Engand to victory after the pitch was underwater at lunchtime. Certainly the present Australian chairman of selectors remembers it well- he was the last man out!

  • aus_trad on April 13, 2013, 22:22 GMT

    Derek Underwood: the most accurate bowler - period - I have seen in over 40 years of watching test cricket; and also the best bad-wicket bowler I have seen. He would also be a member of what I call my "nice guys" eleven, with the likes of Alan Knott, Max Walker, Derek Randall, Rick McCosker, Jonty Rhodes, Alvin Kallicharran, etc. The nucleus of a pretty good team! Just shows you don't have to have the Lillee-Chappell scowl or the McGrath sneer to play wonderfully well...

  • whoster on April 13, 2013, 18:31 GMT

    Deadly was a truly great spinner. He'd get bounce where others wouldn't, and the fact that he didn't turn the ball as much as some wasn't a big deal. At the pace he bowled at, a touch of turn and a touch of bounce was all he needed to be unplayable. Both his Test and First-Class statistics indicate a spin bowler of very top quality. He could've extended his Test career by the best part of a decade had he made different decisions - and then he would've been an undisputed legend of the game. Let's also not underestimate the importance of Derek having the legendary Alan Knott keeping wicket for him at Kent and England. As the first poster commented, he was also a gentleman of the game - and I'd gladly hitch a ride on the time machine to help with the mopping up back in '68!

  • cloudmess on April 13, 2013, 12:45 GMT

    Best English spinner. For me, he just shades Laker because he was still tricky on good wickets.

  • on April 13, 2013, 9:33 GMT

    His cricinfo profile has his highest test score at 45 not out!!!

  • on April 13, 2013, 9:19 GMT

    A true gentleman of the game and what a bowler. I wish I could invent a time machine only to travel back to the Oval in 1968 and help mop up before watching Deadly run through the Aussies.

  • on April 13, 2013, 9:19 GMT

    A true gentleman of the game and what a bowler. I wish I could invent a time machine only to travel back to the Oval in 1968 and help mop up before watching Deadly run through the Aussies.

  • on April 13, 2013, 9:33 GMT

    His cricinfo profile has his highest test score at 45 not out!!!

  • cloudmess on April 13, 2013, 12:45 GMT

    Best English spinner. For me, he just shades Laker because he was still tricky on good wickets.

  • whoster on April 13, 2013, 18:31 GMT

    Deadly was a truly great spinner. He'd get bounce where others wouldn't, and the fact that he didn't turn the ball as much as some wasn't a big deal. At the pace he bowled at, a touch of turn and a touch of bounce was all he needed to be unplayable. Both his Test and First-Class statistics indicate a spin bowler of very top quality. He could've extended his Test career by the best part of a decade had he made different decisions - and then he would've been an undisputed legend of the game. Let's also not underestimate the importance of Derek having the legendary Alan Knott keeping wicket for him at Kent and England. As the first poster commented, he was also a gentleman of the game - and I'd gladly hitch a ride on the time machine to help with the mopping up back in '68!

  • aus_trad on April 13, 2013, 22:22 GMT

    Derek Underwood: the most accurate bowler - period - I have seen in over 40 years of watching test cricket; and also the best bad-wicket bowler I have seen. He would also be a member of what I call my "nice guys" eleven, with the likes of Alan Knott, Max Walker, Derek Randall, Rick McCosker, Jonty Rhodes, Alvin Kallicharran, etc. The nucleus of a pretty good team! Just shows you don't have to have the Lillee-Chappell scowl or the McGrath sneer to play wonderfully well...

  • landl47 on April 13, 2013, 3:42 GMT

    If every wicket on which cricket was played was damp, Underwood would be an automatic choice for every 'best-of' side. He was really a slow-medium pace bowler, extremely accurate and on any wicket not dead flat he was as deadly as his nickname. He'd have been an amazing T20 cricketer. Just look at his statistics- almost 2500 first-class wickets @20 apiece, 153 5-wicket hauls and 47 10-wicket matches. In tests, despite the flatter wickets, he took 297 @ 25 and would have taken a lot more had he not played in WSC and later in a rebel tour to South Africa. His economy rate of 2.1 was among the best of his time.

    No-one who saw it will ever forget the final Ashes test of 1968, when he bowled Engand to victory after the pitch was underwater at lunchtime. Certainly the present Australian chairman of selectors remembers it well- he was the last man out!

  • Whatsgoinoffoutthere on April 13, 2013, 15:28 GMT

    I remember seeing him bowl to Robin Smith in the County Championship game at Canterbury. One trademark cover drive, followed by one trademark fast arm-ball, right on target and with little change to an immaculate action. You don't do that to Deadly. Underwood then injured his neck and that would finish most players' involvement in the match. But he sent down over 20 overs wearing a collar on his neck in the Hampshire second innings. Only one wicket, but conceding under two an over.

    Later that season, against Warwickshire at Folkestone, he bowled 35.5 overs and conceded only 11 runs while taking 7 wickets. 29 maidens. He even had time for a (rare) no-ball in that 11 runs.

    His only century came as a night watchman a few seasons earlier and resulted in a tied game. That Hastings pitch is now a shopping centre.

    He retired at 42. I reckon he could have gone on.