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    Derek Underwood, the legendary spinner for England and Kent, has passed away at the age of 78
Derek Underwood, the legendary spinner for England and Kent, has passed away at the age of 78
Derek Underwood reflects on his 10 wickets for the match vs Australia. Source: S&G/PA Images

Derek Underwood, the legendary spinner for England and Kent, has passed away at the age of 78

Derek Underwood, widely considered the greatest spin bowler in England's Test history, passed away at the age of 78.

Underwood played his entire first-class career at Kent, where he made his first-team debut at the age of 17. He went on to make over 900 appearances across three decades, from 1963-1987, taking 2,523 wickets at an average of just 19.04 in 86 Tests between 1966 and 1982.

Nicknamed 'Deadly' by his teammates, Underwood's left-arm action was renowned for its accuracy. He came at the batsman with the pace and turn of a seam bowler.

He was most lethal on rain-soaked wickets, as he was in the final Ashes Test at The Oval in 1968. After the crowd made a concerted effort to make the outfield playable, Underwood took four wickets in 27 balls to defeat Australia and level the series with six minutes remaining.

Underwood is England's leading spin bowler and the sixth-highest wicket-taker in the country's history. He played in 26 ODI matches between 1973 and 1982, including two appearances in the inaugural 1975 World Cup, and took 32 wickets at an average of 22.93.

From September 1969 to August 1973, Underwood was the world's No. 1 bowler in the ICC Men's Test Bowler Rankings. At Hastings in 1973, he took 8 for 9 to beat Sussex on a rain-soaked pitch, with the crowd once again helping the fire brigade to clear the floodwater from the ground.

Underwood's versatility was evident in his performance in both India and Australia, where he was able to reduce his pace to increase his impact. He could have broken Fred Trueman's then-England record of 307 wickets if he had not made two significant career choices towards the end of his career. Firstly, he accepted Kerry Packer's invitation to join World Series Cricket in 1977. Secondly, in 1981-82, he joined the first rebel tour of South Africa, which resulted in a three-year ban from internationals and effectively ended his career.

Underwood retired from cricket in 1987 after a successful career with Kent. He won several County Championships, One-Day Cups, National Leagues, and Benson & Hedges Cups. He was awarded two benefit seasons in 1975 and 1986, respectively. In 1981, he was awarded an MBE for his services to cricket.

In 2008, Derek Underwood was appointed as the President of Marylebone Cricket Club. He had previously served as Kent Cricket's Club President in 2006. Underwood was also inducted into the ICC's Cricket Hall of Fame in 2009.

In 2011, in recognition of his legendary partnership with another great of his era, England and Kent wicketkeeper Alan Knott, the Annexe Stand at Kent's home ground in Canterbury was renamed the Underwood & Knott Stand.

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