The numbers which prove Derek Underwood had plenty of players in a spin

By Sports Desk April 15, 2024

Derek Underwood, one of Test and first-class cricket’s all-time leading wicket-takers, has died aged 78.

Underwood, who retired in 1987 and played his last Test in 1982, still ranks sixth among Test wicket-takers for England and is the leading spinner on that list.

He also ranks 14th all-time for first-class wickets and here, the PA news agency looks at his career record.

First-class record

Underwood took 2,465 first-class wickets in a 25-year career with Kent and England spanning 676 matches.

That ranks him comfortably inside the top 20 in the game’s history, while his wickets came at an average of 20.28.

While that excellent mark is actually bettered by most of those ahead of him, on a list headed by fellow slow left-armer Wilfred Rhodes’ 4,204 wickets at 16.72, Underwood’s economy rate of 2.14 runs an over is the best of the many spinners in that group and trails only Derek Shackleton and Maurice Tate.

He took 100 wickets in his debut first-class season in 1963 – becoming the youngest bowler to do so, only turning 18 in June of that summer.

Nicknamed “Deadly”, he had career-best figures of nine for 28 and was noted for his match-winning spells – particularly on damp pitches, such as his seven for 50 in a 1968 Test against Australia at the Oval and eight for nine against Sussex five years later.

Though not noted for his batting, he recorded a solitary first-class century in 1984, aged 39. Sussex were again the opponents as he nudged his way to 111 in a tied game. He added just two half-centuries in 710 innings.

A further 411 matches in List A cricket, with 572 wickets at 19.40, took him beyond 1,000 matches and 3,000 wickets in his career.

England record

No other England spinner has taken as many Test wickets as Underwood’s 297, in 86 games between 1966 and 1982.

His wickets came at an average of 25.84, with his best innings and match figures both coming against Pakistan in August 1974 with eight for 51 in the second innings and 13 for 71 in the match.

James Anderson and Stuart Broad have broken new frontiers for England in recent years, with 700 and 604 wickets respectively, but only three other bowlers have exceeded Underwood’s tally.

Lord Ian Botham took 383 between 1977 and 1992, Bob Willis took 325 and Fred Trueman 307.

Graeme Swann is Underwood’s nearest challenger among England spinners, taking his 255 wickets in just 60 matches but at an average over four runs higher than Underwood’s.

Underwood ranks 38th on the all-time Test wicket list and is in the top 10 among spinners, a list headed by Sri Lanka great Muttiah Muralitharan’s record 800 and Shane Warne’s 708 for Australia.

Anil Kumble took 619 for India, Australia’s Nathan Lyon and India’s Ravichandran Ashwin are over 500 and Rangana Herath and Harbhajan Singh broke the 400 barrier. Daniel Vettori (362) and Lance Gibbs (309) are the others ahead of Underwood.

On the spinning pitches of India, Underwood edges out Australia’s Richie Benaud as the leading visiting spinner with 54 wickets.

Underwood also played 26 one-day internationals, taking 32 wickets at 22.93 with a best of four for 44 against the West Indies.

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