Farewell to a Cricketing Legend: Remembering Derek Underwood Following His Death At 78

Derek Underwood, renowned as one of England and Kent’s most illustrious bowlers, has passed away at the age of 78. Slow left-armer Underwood took 297 wickets in 86 Tests between 1966 and 1982, the most by any England spinner.

Throughout his remarkable 24-year domestic career, Underwood secured a staggering 2,465 wickets in 676 first-class matches, solely representing Kent, his birth county.

An esteemed figure in cricket, Underwood received an MBE distinction in 1981 and served as the president of the Marylebone Cricket Club in 2009.

Derek Underwood’s death news left everyone in shock (Credit: YouTube)

Despite his prolific achievements, Underwood’s international appearances were somewhat curtailed by his participation in World Series Cricket in 1977 and the rebel tour of South Africa in 1981-82, limiting him to 32 wickets in 26 one-day internationals.

Fondly nicknamed ‘Deadly’, Underwood was honored as one of the 55 inaugural members inducted into the International Cricket Council Hall of Fame upon its inception in 2009.

Kent Cricket chair Simon Philip said the club is:

“In mourning following the passing of one of its greatest ever players”.

He added:

“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.”

Recognized for his remarkable accuracy, Underwood possessed the ability to bowl at a pace faster than many spinners, coupled with adept variations in pace and length, making him a formidable opponent for batters.

Known for his high level of accuracy, Underwood would often bowl much quicker than most spinners but was also able to deceive batters with variations of pace and length.

His prowess was particularly pronounced on uncovered pitches affected by rain, where his swifter deliveries would skid onto batters swiftly, while his capacity to extract turn on drying surfaces added to his effectiveness.

“Watching Derek weave his unique magic on a wet wicket was a privilege for all who were able to witness it,” added Philip.

“His induction into the ICC Hall of Fame shows the esteem in which he was held in world cricket.

Derek Underwood (Credit: YouTube)

“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.”

Ranked sixth on England’s Test wicket-takers list, Underwood boasts 42 more scalps than the next spinner, and sits seventh overall, just below Graeme Swann.

Born in Bromley in 1945, Underwood made his Kent debut in 1963 aged just 17 before making his Test debut against West Indies three years later.

His pivotal role in England’s historic triumph over Australia in the fifth Test of the 1968 Ashes at The Oval remains etched in memory, where he clinched the last four wickets in a whirlwind finale, aided by a crowd-assisted ground-drying effort after a rain delay.

Underwood’s partnership with wicketkeeper Alan Knott proved instrumental for both England and Kent. However, their international careers were briefly interrupted by their involvement in Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket from 1977 to 1979.

Despite his illustrious career, Underwood courted controversy when he defied the sporting boycott of Apartheid-era South Africa by touring with a team led by Graham Gooch in 1982.

Notably, at the age of 39, Underwood notched his first and only first-class century against Sussex in 1984, a testament to his enduring skill and tenacity.

Retiring from cricket in 1987, Underwood left behind a legacy adorned with three County Championships, two One-Day Cups, three National Leagues, and three Benson & Hedges Cups for Kent.

England and Wales Cricket Board chair Richard Thompson said:

“It is always a sad day when a great of the English game passes away.

“Derek Underwood will be remembered as one of the finest spin bowlers this country has ever produced, and his remarkable record is testament to his enduring skill.

“Our thoughts are with Derek’s friends and family, everyone at Kent, and everyone who knew and loved him.”