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Monday, April 15, 2024

RIP - Umbrella Underwood

He toured India thrice and played twice at Chepauk – remember that bald headed versatile leftarm spinner who would spin a web around best batsmen.

Remember well that Chepauk Test in Jan 1977 – Tony Greig captained England to a great 200 win in a series otherwise marred by the ‘vaseline incident’ of John Lever.  At Chepauk, it was the 3rd Test of the Series – Indians responding to 262  were shot out for 164 ~  RGD Willis ran in fast, long and furious and it was a sight to look at – there was Chris Old and the wily Derek Underwood but it was the left handed John Lever who took a 5 for … In their second innings England declared at 185 for 9; with Chandra taking 5 and Prasanna 4.  Set to score 284, India gave a pathetic display getting dismissed for a paltry 83.  RGD Willis took 3; John Lever 2 and Underwood 4.  There was the mercurial Alan Knott who jumped and pouched with aplomb and swept with equal ease.

Sad to read that Derek Underwodd is no more.   Derek Leslie Underwood MBE, English international cricketer, and a President of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).   In his playing days with Bishan Bedi and others around, he was regarded as one of the best spinners, a great practitioner of  slow left-arm orthodox spin.  Underwood akin to Chandrasekhar,  bowled at around medium pace and was often unplayable on seaming English wickets, particularly sticky wickets, earning his nickname 'Deadly', and accounting for the saying that England would "carry Underwood like an umbrella, in case of rain". Underwood was noted for his consistent accuracy, and his inswinging arm ball was particularly noted for dismissing batsmen leg before wicket.  

In his teens he started so well taking   his 100th Test wicket and 1,000th first-class wicket in 1971, aged only 25, yet fell 3 short of 300.  In  2009, Underwood was inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame, along with others including Neil Harvey, David Gower and Allan Border. Alan Knott and Derek Underwood hailed from Kent; there  were others like Colin Cowdrey too.  Kent has produced some notable wicket-keepers Les Ames, Godfrey Evans, Alan Knott, Geraint Jones – Rahul Dravid played one season for Kent, so did Arvinda de Silva and MuttiahMuralitharan.  

I remember seeing that Pongal Test at Chepauk in Jan 1977.  Critics booed India for their lacklustre performance.  Those were the days when Test matches had a rest day !  In that Test no. 793, England opened with Dennis Amiss and Bob Woolmer who was born in Kanpur and later died in Jamaica mysteriously during WC 2007, when he was the coach of Pakistan.  Tony Greig was the captain- John Brearly, Roger Tolchard, Derek Randall, Alan Knott, John Lever, Chris Old, Bob Willis and Derek Underwood played.   Underwood  took 4/28 and later when he played at Chepauk, India, made massive 481/4, Underwood went wicketless.  In that match, for the  third wicket, 415 runs were added by three batsmen: Gundappa Viswanath, the common denominator, Vengsarkar, had to retire hurt at 150 hit by a bouncer from Bob Willis and Yashpal Sharma, who in 492 minutes helped Viswanath add the remaining 316.

Derek Underwood was a regular from 1966 to 1982 and played some onedayers too.  Nicknamed "Deadly" by his team-mates, Underwood's lithe whippy left-arm action was renowned for its accuracy and came at the batter with the pace and snap of a seam bowler. In  the final Test of the 1968 Ashes at The Oval, when - after a concerted effort by the crowd to make the outfield playable - Underwood claimed four wickets in 27 balls to defeat Australia and square the series with six minutes of the match remaining. Underwood remains the sixth-highest wicket-taker in England's history, and the leading spin bowler, ahead of Graeme Swann (255). In ODI cricket, he made 26 appearances between 1973 and 1982, including a pair of appearances in the inaugural 1975 World Cup, claiming taking 32 wickets at 22.93.

He played 86 tests bowled 21862 balls taking 297 wickets with best of 8/51 – and add 32 wickets in 26 ODI.  He made 937 test runs with 45 as highest.  Underwood was one of six England cricketers (the others being John Snow, Alan Knott, Dennis Amiss, Bob Woolmer and Tony Greig), to feature in Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket in the late 1970s.  He also went on the rebel tour South Africa in 1981–82, bringing his England career to an end as it was in defiance of the sporting ban against the apartheid state.  For this he was banned  for three years.

RIP Derek Underwood !
With regards – S Sampathkumar
15th Apr 2024



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