Derek Underwood © Getty Images
Derek Underwood © Getty Images

Derek Underwood, born on June 8, 1945, is one of the greatest spinners to have played for England. To date, he is England’s most successful spinner in Test cricket, having made his name with his fastish left-arm orthodox. Nishad Pai Vaidya picks 10 facts one should know about Underwood.

1.  Pace bowling aspirations

Underwood had a longish run-up and he also bowled at a faster pace when compared to the other spinners going around. In a chat withESPNcricinfo, Underwood said that he aspired to be a pacer in school and that was the reason behind that long run-up. “I suppose when it came to the transition between youth cricket and adult cricket I was no longer quick anymore and one had to adapt to a different set of circumstances,” he said.

2.  Rolls-Royce

In the early 1960s, a teenaged Underwood was picked by Kent. In one of the matches against Somerset, he was the 12th man. Many would dream of an arrival of this nature. Underwood reported for the game in a Rolls-Royce. That car was driven by Colin Cowdrey’s father-in-law, Stuart Chiesman.

3.  Colin Cowdrey’s influence and the cap incident

Although Underwood made his First-Class debut in 1963, he was handed his county cap only in 1964, notes CricketCountry. Cowdrey, who was Kent captain, handed it to Underwood during a match against Australia, who were playing the county in a tour encounter. In that game, Underwood picked up five wickets. Not only that, but Cowdrey also made sure that Underwood’s parents were there to witness their son getting the cap. Looking at his long run-up and the tendency to bowl at a faster pace, Cowdrey tried to correct Underwood and even went on to put up nets in his backyard to work with the youngster.

4.  Nicknamed ‘Deadly’

Underwood earned a reputation of being almost unplayable on wet wickets. As a result, he was handed the nickname ‘Deadly.’ On a wicket with moisture, Underwood would run through the opposition and setup the game for his side.

5.  Most successful visiting spinner in Test matches in India

India’s dust-bowls are known to aid spin. However, some of the greatest spinners in the world have failed to live up to their high standards in the country. Consider this: Both Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan average over 40 in Tests in India. Underwood, though, is the leading wicket-taker for visiting spinners in India. In 16 Tests, he took 54 wickets at an average of 26.51. Richie Benaud is next on the list with 52 wickets in only eight Tests.

6.  Most capped spinner for England

With 86 Tests for England, Underwood is their most capped spinner. He finished with 297 wickets in Test cricket and was unfortunate not to have overhauled the 300-mark. He is also the most successful spinner for England.

7.  Only First-Class ton as a nightwatchman

In a county game against Sussex in 1984, Underwood managed his only First-Class ton. In the second innings, Underwood was sent in to bat at No. 3 as a nightwatchman. This was after Kent had been bowled out for 92 in the first innings and then managed to bundle out Sussex for 143. In a low-scoring encounter, Underwood scored 111 — only hundred on both sides. Kent managed to setup a target of 193 for Sussex and the game ended in a tie.

8.  Most successful bowler against Sunil Gavaskar

Underwood has dismissed the great Sunil Gavaskar the most number of times in Test cricket. In the 20 Tests they played against each other, he had Gavaskar’s wicket 12 times. Imran Khan and Michael Holding are next in the list, having dismissed Gavaskar 11 times each. The interesting stat about Underwood is that he dismissed Greg Chappell 13 times in Test cricket. He was clearly at his best against the finest batsmen in that era.

9.  The partnership with Alan Knott ‘stands’ the test of time

A spinner needs an able ally behind the stumps. In Alan Knott, Underwood found the perfect gloveman in both county and international cricket. In the 72 Test they played together, they effected 27 dismissals. However, they were a bigger success in county cricket, having shared the dressing room for Kent. In 2011, their county honoured them by naming a stand at the St Lawrence Cricket Ground after them. According to Kent News, they accounted for 198 wickets in tandem in county cricket.

10.  World Series Cricket

In the late 1970s, Underwood joined Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket (WSC), where he played for the World XI. As luck would have it, Knott was also one of the players who featured in the tournament and was Underwood’s teammate.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Cricket Correspondent with cricketcountry.com and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)