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Underwood’s 1968 performance against Australia at the Oval. Came home early from work to see that. Seems like yesterday. Count the short-legs and silly points.




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Here's Gideon Haigh on Underwood. (Haigh is always worth reading, even with typos, which are several in this piece). 


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Derek Underwood 1945-2024

GH on England's one-of-a-kind spinner.

APR 16
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  Derek Underwood Cricket Et Al Fisher Classics  
Artwork by Fisher Classics

There was no reason for Derek Underwood to bowl left arm. He batted right-handed. He wrote right-handed. Everyone else on both sides of his family was right-handed. It was just that when he first stooped to pick up a cricket ball while watching his father Leslie bowl medium pace for Farnborough in Kent that it was with his left hand.

Nor was there any reason for him to bowl as he did, as a spinner operating at just below medium pace with a low arm from round the wicket. Nobody told him to. Nobody affirmed him. Tony Lock was so dismissive of Underwood as a colt he took him for a batter. The technique proved an advantage when he was picked by Kent as a seventeen-year-old because English county pitches, dressed in Surrey loam, had grown so slow: he was the youngest man to take 100 first-class wickets in a season. 

As Underwood described in his autobiography Beating the Bat, however, he was constantly counselled by captains, coaches, selectors and critics to change, to adjust his speeds, angles and attitudes, to conform to the stereotype of the left-arm orthodox - something closer to a Bishop Bedi or, in his own country, Don Wilson. What people didn’t realise, Underwood recalled, was that he had usually tried all these ideas first and found them wanting. He professed not to be fussed by the difficulty of classifying him; his preferred self-designation was ‘mean’ bowler: ‘I hate every run that is scored off me. I don’t like trying to buy my wickets. That is just not the way I play the game.’

He was nicknamed ‘Deadly’. It was perfect in its way. Nobody could have looked less lethal, with his clean chin, receding hairline, ten-to-two feet and more-or-less constant dishevelment; but ‘Deadly’ went with his remorseless control, his menacing fuller length, his inhibiting stump-to-stump line, and that refusal to barter wickets for runs. Geoff Boycott referred to him as having ‘the demeanour of a civil servant and the mentality of a rat catcher.’ Alan Knott, his great confrere, noted Underwood’s ‘supreme cricket fitness’: so grooved was his action, he was a stranger to injury.

Doing what came naturally did not always come easily. While wet pitches made his name, Underwood saw these as a mixed blessing.

It is easy for people to write,’The wicket is just made for Underwood’, or ‘Under should bowl them out today.’ It is far harder waking up in the morning to read what people expect you to do and then go out and do it. I find there is enough tension playing in a Test match without extra pressure being put on me.

The trouble was he so often went out and confirmed these suppositions, starting with the afternoon the twenty-three-year-old routed Australia at the Oval in 1968 by taking seven for 50, including four for 6 in his last twenty-seven deliveries. ‘I was shattered by the end of it, and felt no particular elation at the time,’ he recalled. ‘My first desire was to get back to the dressing room, and I remember thinking to myself how peaceful it looked as I entered the deserted room.’ He claimed not to have watched footage of the day. But for a decade and more, he was English cricket’s go-to guy on anything other than a green seamer, and even he could be handy. At Adelaide in 1975, he claimed the first seven wickets of the Test match.

Underwood’s other great service for England was as a nightwatchman, which was a decidedly dangerous occupation in the days before helmets, and which he perhaps rendered more perilous by a technique that involved playing everything, even bouncers. ‘Whenever I see a bouncer coming I automatically get into line, body behind the bat and ball,’ he explained. ‘That is what I was brought up to do. Nobody ever told me what I should do next and I never learned.’ Tony Greig called him ‘one of the bravest tailed batsmen I have ever seen’ and recalled greeting him at the Gabba in 1974 with Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson in their pomp. Any advice? asked Underwood. ‘Yes,’ said Greig grimly. ‘Fight for your life.’ After an over of bouncers from Thomson, Underwood came down the pitch and said simply: ‘I see what you mean.’

It’s funny, but Thomson was a bowler I often put in the same bracket as Underwood - not of course for pace or danger, but because of their sheer untutored uniqueness. That 1974-5 summer was my first as a cricket watcher, so I took them both at face value: why should they not bowl the way they did? I’ve waited my whole lifetime and seen nobody like either of them. The same thought occurred to Knott: 

What really surprises me is that youngsters who must have watched Underwood for many years on television have no copied his style of bowling. He is one of the all-time cricketing greats and I would have expected that young cricketers would try to copy him. His great assists are his run-up, delivery and follow-through - they are perfect. He has a rhythmical and economical approach to the wicket, and he makes full use of his body in delivery, while obtaining maximum height in his action…In fact, if you read the MCC coaching book you will find he has the classic method of bowling.

But, then, the game no longer makes any pretence of balance. As Underwood’s death was announced, an Indian Premier League match was underway in which runs were scored at fourteen an over and thirty-eight sixes were hit. A ‘mean’ bowler now seems almost unthinkable: the ball might as well be struck from stationary tees. In the circumstances, one might as well do what comes naturally.

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On 14/04/2024 at 21:36, compo said:

I’ve been sitting here thinking hard and I don’t ever remember him scoring from outside the box 


Keep it tight at the back and I'll do the rest for you' – Jimmy Greaves  remembered by John Sillett | News | Official Site | Chelsea Football Club


Prefer this picture of the maestro Compo!!! 

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11 minutes ago, ChelseaBoy said:

Prefer this picture of the maestro Compo!!! 

Chelsea should revert to that strip. If it must be all blue, wear blue socks as well. White socks are for Real and ballet dancers only.

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2 minutes ago, Scott7 said:

Chelsea should revert to that strip. If it must be all blue, wear blue socks as well. White socks are for Real and ballet dancers only.

Blue socks!!!!

That's Everton.

Chelsea, royal blue shirt and shorts with white stripe on shorts and white socks. Plus original badge was very similar to Rangers. I thought I read somewhere the same person designed them or the ground? 





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Lara made 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham in June 1994, two months after his 375

BC Lara



And, handily enough, here's an interview with Atherton, in which they discuss his record breaking scores, from last week's Times.




Brian Lara: I couldn’t sleep before breaking record – so I played golf at 5am

West Indies great, who scored world-best 375 against Mike Atherton’s England 30 years ago this week, explains why he was ‘not bothered’ when Matthew Hayden took his crown… or when he regained it six months later with a knock of 400


Mike Atherton, Chief Cricket Correspondent

Thursday April 18 2024, 3.00pm, The Times


Brian Lara: I couldn’t sleep before breaking record – so I played golf at 5am (thetimes.co.uk)


It started with a word from the big man. Curtly Ambrose knew a graveyard pitch when he saw one, and, as a local, he was very well acquainted with an Andy Roberts special at the Antigua Recreation Ground. In any case, the series was already won and he fancied putting his feet up for a long while yet.

Speaking to me from Mumbai, Brian Lara takes up the story: “At some point during the second day’s play, Curtly said to Richie Richardson [the West Indies captain for the series, who was injured for this Test], ‘Don’t even think about declaring. The pitch is flat, the series is won. Let the young man bat for as long as possible.’ ” That afternoon, then, was when Lara thought about it for the first time.

“It” was the world-record Test score (365) held by Garfield Sobers since 1958, which Lara broke 30 years ago today, making 375 against my England team in April 1994. It prompted a remarkable sequence of scores, culminating in a world-record first-class innings of 501 for Warwickshire against Durham two months later, which included: 375 (v England); 147 (v Glamorgan); 106 and 120 not out (v Leicestershire); 136 (v Somerset); 140 (v Middlesex) and 501 (v Warwickshire).


Atherton congratulates Lara after his record-breaking innings

Atherton congratulates Lara after his record-breaking innings



But before mentioning the big man and the record, Lara takes me back to Sydney in January 1993 and to his fifth Test match, when he made his first Test hundred, 277 against Australia. Sometime after that innings, Lara says Sobers “schooled” him about not understanding what was in front of him and the chance to make history.

Lara says he remembers feeling elated after that first hundred and, after passing his double-century and making the game safe, the electronic scoreboard at the Sydney Cricket Ground flashed up a series of scores as incentives. One that stood out was Viv Richards’ 291, made against England in 1976 at the Oval, and it was that, rather than the Sobers record, that was in Lara’s mind then.


To Antigua, then, 15 months later: “I had fallen in love with scoring big at Sydney,” Lara says. “I began to think if I got to the end of the second day, what would my score be? I passed 277, a great feeling, and got the triple, another great feeling. Sir Garfield was there promoting Barbados tourism and so if the captain wasn’t going to declare, there was only one thing on everyone’s mind.”


Lara finished the second day on 320, needing 46 more to pass Sobers. Like those who had climbed Everest before him, he slept badly. In his excellent book, The Men Who Raised The Bar, the journalist Chris Waters quotes Len Hutton, who, the night before passing Don Bradman’s Ashes record of 334 and Wally Hammond’s world record of 336 in 1938, endured “an eternity of sleeplessness and introspection”. Sobers also said he had a “restless night” before he passed Hutton’s mark of 364.

So did Lara. “I didn’t sleep at all. I’d had dinner in St John’s with some friends,” he says. “I was rooming with Junior Murray and we watched a couple of videos, had a laugh, but I couldn’t sleep. I realised around 5am that I wasn’t going to sleep, so I called one of my friends and we played golf, nine holes, and then I made it back for breakfast.”


Lara made 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham in June 1994, two months after his 375

Lara made 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham in June 1994, two months after his 375



The rest is history, with the remarkable footnote applied that, for the record-breaking shot, mid-morning, when he pulled Chris Lewis to the square-leg boundary to euphoric reaction, Lara nudged the stump gently so that the bail was a little out of its groove, precariously lodged. Did he know? “No, not at all,” he says. “I think the first time I heard about it was when I read about it afterwards.”

Sobers’ record had stood for 36 years. Lara was almost a decade into his tenure when he got a call from his lawyer, Jonathan Crystal. “I was in Jamaica, and it was very early when I got a call from Jonathan, saying, ‘I have a number for you to call; your record has just been broken in Australia.’ So I got through to Matthew [Hayden] and congratulated him.

I lay on my bed afterwards.  I’ve had trouble convincing people over the years that these records are not what I’m all about. I was captain of West Indies and if you look at the numbers you’d call it a failure compared to the guys that went before. That was something I really wanted to make good.

“So at no stage was I really thinking about it. I was not bothered about losing the record then and I wouldn’t be bothered if I lose it tomorrow. It’s great if you find players who can get to the top of those mountains.”


Remarkably, within six months of Hayden making 380 against Zimbabwe in Perth, Lara had taken the record back — same opponent, same ground, same month — when he made 400 against Michael Vaughan’s England team in April 2004.


Lara regains his record in April 2004 with a score of 400 not out. It was against the same opponent (England) at the same ground (the Antigua Recreation Ground, Antigua) in the same month (April)

Lara regains his record in April 2004 with a score of 400 not out. It was against the same opponent (England) at the same ground (the Antigua Recreation Ground, Antigua) in the same month (April)



“It’s like destiny, that’s how I look at it,” Lara says. “Holding the record and regaining the record after it was broken, is just destiny. It has a greater meaning to me. I feel I understand it and I’d rather not divulge that meaning but I think I understand the meaning of these records and why I was placed to do it. Everything had to fall into place.”

That “everything” is the rare set of circumstances that must arrive to allow a player the chance to make such a gargantuan score, even if they are good enough and have the ability, stamina and concentration to do it. It is not often in a competitive first-class game that a player will be given the opportunity to make 400 or 500.


Can he see his records being broken, therefore? “Someone got 400-plus in county cricket, didn’t they? [Sam Northeast made an unbeaten 410 for Glamorgan against Leicestershire in 2022]. How often does the opportunity arise? It is very difficult because everything has to fall into place,” he says.

“I think 400 is possible — if Tests go to four days that will make it hard but the way players are playing now, it would take much less time. I wouldn’t be surprised but it has to stack up a certain way.”


Lara celebrates his 400 in 2004

Lara celebrates his 400 in 2004



Lara had an astonishing record against England but until his post-375 run of hundreds in county cricket in early 1994 he had not done particularly well over here, struggling in county matches on the 1991 tour, as he battled to establish himself in the West Indies team.

What was it about England, first of all? “As a West Indian growing up there were two massive series: the Sir Frank Worrell Trophy against Australia and the Wisden Trophy against England,” Lara says. “What made it more important was the close proximity and history with colonial England. Reading about that history of cricket between both countries triggers a little more emotion and puts a little more pep in your step. Because of that history, any young West Indian looked forward to the England series.

“But I remember the press conference when I arrived after the 375 and people were asking what I was going to do to county cricket. I had to remind them I’d averaged about 25 on that ’91 tour. I appreciated English conditions and I hadn’t adapted very well then.


“But I was a bit more mature by ’94 and had the ability to put an innings together. I cherished the pressure and the expectation. In ’91 I was trying to establish myself; in ’94 people expected great things and I worked better under those conditions.”

The 501 recalls the well-worn anecdote of Chris Scott, the Durham wicketkeeper, who dropped Lara on 18 and bemoaned the fact that the great man would probably go on to make a hundred. And the rest.


Batting records can involve flat pitches, a lack of balance between bat and ball, and matches that often result in a bore draw. So when I think of Lara, who I first played against at under-19 level, I don’t think of the 375, 400 not out or 501 not out — I think instead of some other innings that he played, such as the brilliant, unbeaten, match-winning 153 against Australia in Bridgetown in 1999.

Most of all, though, I think of the majesty of his batting. There is no one I would have paid more to watch. It was almost a pleasure captaining against him when he was on song. A beautiful player. With his high backlift, the toe of the bat pointing towards the sky, and hands that could manoeuvre the ball at will, nobody in my time played with more style or grace.

Where did that joyous backlift come from? “It was a bit less flamboyant for spin but the exaggerated backlift came from being diminutive and playing against fast bowlers, like Ian Bishop, growing up in the Caribbean,” Lara says “It’s momentum, really: getting ready to pick up the pace; crouched position, picking the bat up; good eyes and footwork, hands coming down naturally.”


With T20 bringing more power to the game, the touch players and the stylists are in retreat. Lara, though, enjoys watching the modern game. “It’s more entertaining now. I enjoy teams trying to score at four, five, six an over in Test cricket. The modern Test game is fast-paced and there are a lot more results. I don’t feel the [Test] game has gone backwards because of T20 cricket,” he says.


Among many, he loves watching India’s KL Rahul bat and thinks Suryakumar Yadav has a “wow” factor (“where do you bowl to him?”). From West Indies, he likes Nicholas Pooran and thinks Alick Athanaze can become a good Test cricketer but adds: “I appreciate players for whatever they bring to the team; not every player will be aggressive and stylish but they may serve a purpose in the team.”


Looking back now at that two-month period, culminating in the 501 against Durham, how does he think he handled it all? He became one of the most famous sportsmen on the planet almost overnight. He was fêted everywhere he went. Life had changed. What advice would he pass on to his 24-year-old younger self now, if he could?

“I handled it as well as I could but I wasn’t really ready for it,” he says. “If you look now it is very difficult for anyone in the media to get close to a superstar today. Back then, it was very easy. Everyone had access to you. It was trial and error.

“There are many things I would do differently if I was speaking to my younger self but that is what life is all about. It’s spontaneous, and you have to make decisions. I learnt from it, that’s the main thing.”


So speaks a man of 54, looking back at a particular time in his life that changed everything. Is it really 30 years ago? The ARG bouncing to Chickie’s disco. A full house. Sobers waiting on the sidelines. Lewis at the end of his mark. Lara, maroon cap, tapping his bat rhythmically up and down. The England captain, at short cover, clapping his hands to the beat, fiddling with the field to make Lara wait: “You’re making it hard for me, Mikey,” I remember him saying.

Could England’s captain have done anything different in Antigua all those years ago? Could he have made it harder?

“Not really, he tried everything,” Lara says. “In those days, captains kept the field up mainly so maybe he could have dropped the field back and frustrated me a bit more, turning boundaries into singles.

“But, between us,” he adds a touch conspiratorially, “it was a pretty good batting pitch.”

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Well, if we are on the subject of West Indian batsmen:


The Man They Called The King: A tribute to Sir Viv Richards - Kyrosports


Cricket Pictures, Iconic Cricket Posters and Cricket Photos framed at SPG


IVA Richards, The King, as he was known. 


Richards was batting against an English County side.

The bowler managed to get him to play and miss, and said to the Great Man,

"It's round and red, Viv, round and red."

Big mistake, as a few deliveries later, he was a little loose with his line, and Richards, seizing the opportunity, hammered the ball over the boundary, and out of the ground, completely. 

Richards looked at the bowler, and said,

"You know what it looks like, man. Go find it!"




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