Home » Derek Underwood: Former England and Kent spinner dies aged 78

Derek Underwood: Former England and Kent spinner dies aged 78

Former England and Kent spinner Derek Underwood has died at the age of 78, the county have announced.

Underwood was capped 86 times by England in Test matches during a playing career which began in 1963 and ended in 1987, and his 297 wickets are the sixth-most by a player in the national team’s history.

At domestic level, he was one-club player and took 2,523 wickets across his three decades playing for Kent, where he won three County Championships, two One-Day Cups, three National Leagues and three Benson & Hedges Cups.

“The Kent Cricket family is in mourning following the passing of one of its greatest ever players,” the county’s chair Simon Philip said.

“Derek was an outstanding contributor to both Kent and England, winning trophies for club and country and etching his name in the history books forevermore.

“Watching Derek weave his unique magic on a wet wicket was a privilege for all who were able to witness it. His induction into the ICC Hall of Fame shows the esteem in which he was held in world cricket.

“An advocate for growing our game worldwide whilst protecting our sport’s rich heritage, Derek also made substantial contributions off the field as well as on it, and he will be sorely missed by everyone at Kent Cricket.”

Underwood, affectionately known as ‘Deadly’, made his Kent debut as a 17-year old and became the youngest bowler to take 100 wickets in his debut season, including 4-40 in his first innings.

Known as a master of uncovered pitches, he first played for his country at Test level as a 21-year-old in 1966 and made his final international appearance in 1982. He played 26 in one-day internationals as well, taking 32 wickets.

No other spinner has taken more Test wickets for England and his record tally would have been even higher had it not been for his decision to play in Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket and the first rebel tour of South Africa.

However, he still sits 42 wickets ahead of his nearest rival among spinners, Graeme Swann.

After retiring from playing, Underwood was named MCC president in 2008, after serving as Kent’s president in 2006, and was inducted into the ICC’s Cricket Hall of Fame in 2009.

In 2011, the Annexe Stand at Kent’s home ground in Canterbury was renamed the Underwood and Knott Stand in recognition of his and former club and country team-mate Alan Knott’s contributions to the county.

Atherton: Underwood England’s greatest spinner, and a different type to today

Sky Sports Cricket’s Michael Atherton…

“Undeniably a great cricketer for England. He’s still England’s leading wicket-taker as a spinner: 297 Test match wickets.

“Bowling at a time where, if people think of Derek Underwood, they think particularly of uncovered pitches. He was a quick spinner who bowled at a fast pace, and on pitches that were drying, he was said to be near unplayable.

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Former England and Kent spinner Underwood has died aged 78

“You think of spinners as being quite slow and flighty. But because of the conditions that pertained at the time, he ran in off quite a long run up and bowled it in a kind of cutter fashion, rather than somebody who would flight it and try and beat people in the air.

“You speak to somebody like Ian Chappell, who was a contemporary and would have played against Underwood for Australia in the Ashes, he’d say Derek Underwood was amongst the most difficult bowlers he played against.

“It was very hard to get down the pitch to because he bowled so quickly. So you kind of felt pinned and hemmed into the crease.

“There’s that famous photo at the end of the 1968 Ashes Test match at The Oval when rain had come, they dried the pitch, and all the men were around the bat as England won with about six minutes to spare.

Derek Underwood.
Derek Underwood. February 10, 1971. (Photo by Rice/Fairfax Media via Getty Images).

“He’s top of the list in terms of leading wicket-takers, and I think generally he’d be held to be England’s best spinner.

“Different conditions, different type of bowler to somebody like Graeme Swann, but if you think of England’s all-time spinners in Test cricket, Underwood is right near the top of the tree.”