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Christ Cowdrey delivers a fitting Cricket inspired Eulogy - 'Thank God He Was On Our Side'

Chris Cowdrey:

Well, I stand here on behalf of all the fortunate cricketers who played with Derek over an extraordinary 25 -year career for Kent and England. We share a common thought of this gentle, lovely man. 

Thank the Lord he was on our side. Who can forget that rhythmical approach to the crease and that boyish celebration of every wicked he got. That celebration ‘clap’ every time he got a wicket. I'll never ever forget that. 

And the disgust on his face when he bowled a rare bad ball. And the modest unassuming way that he would accept praise. Well, done deadly. Thank you matey. It was all he ever said. Thank you matey. Derek, nickname deadly, of course, and he truly was on a wet pitch when the sun started to dry the surface and it became like plasticine. 

We've had two days rain here, haven't we? Amazing. The pitch would have been wet and turn up the day on a steaming hot day. Perfect conditions for Derek Underwood. He would spin the ball into the pitch of pace and it would rear up often into the throat of the batsman. 

He was unique. I was there in 1968 at the Oval, when, and the crowd, the whole crowd went out onto the pitch, with pitched pitchforks and towels to try and dry the outfield so that England could have just one hour to bowl out Australia on a wet pitch. 

No problem for Derek who took seventh wicket with six minutes remaining to win the game for England. Thank the Lord he was on our side. On a flat pitch made for batsman, he would toyal away all day for the team under a hot sun, always wanting to bowl, always wanting the ball and on a dry pitch taking spin he was really deadly. 

Once taking 7 for 11 in 35 overs to win us a county match at Folkestone against Warwickshire. Thank the Lord he was on our side. As a lower order batsman, he was a true fighter. He never gave his wicket away, either ducking him weaving against the lights of Michael Holding with that ball whistling past his nose pre -helmet days.  You've all seen that picture, no doubt, of his head there and the ball about here from Holding at 95 miles per hour. Extraordinary, extraordinary how brave he was. 

Or when all the top-order Kent batsmen have failed, including me, against Sussex at Hastings on a poor pitch, he, the night watchman, scored his only career 100, aged 39. Derek never abused or sledged anyone. He never spoke ill of a teammate and always showed respect to fellow players on both sides. And for over 20 years... Derek formed one of the greatest partnerships the sporting world has ever seen…  ‘Caught Knott’, ‘bowled Underwood’. 

So who better to have the final word today than the little man with the red gloves and floppy hat, ‘Knotty’. He sent a message from his home abroad which reflects a career of Derek Underwood through the eyes of a man who kept wicked to him for almost all of the hundred and eighty two thousand, seven hundred and forty eight balls that deadly bowled in his career. 

Alan Knott: Who knew when we first met at the age of 12 at Kent indoor cricket nets at Eltham that Derek and I would both have such long careers playing for Kent in England. In those days we were both opening bowlers and then during our second eleven times we both became spin bowlers. 

Derek went on to become one of the greatest bowlers of all time of course although when we both played in one of the early Sunday televised matches against Hampshire, Derek and I opened the bowling. He got two wickets, and amazingly I got three. 

Derek was extremely competitive, possessed great stamina, strength and will to win. He could bowl all day if required and he once bowled for the whole of the Hampshire second inning, and after the game the opposition spin bowler Nigel Cowley came in to congratulate him saying “Derek you must be the fittest cricketer of all time”. 

The Kent player rather laughed at this description of deadly but later having thought about it we all realised he was right. Cricketer the life that goes with it does not allow much free time but deadly still gave up his time to take on other commitments. 

Being a patron of the primary club which of course a charity for blind cricketers, president of MCC, president of Kent County Cricket Club and president of the West Kent region of the Lord's Taveners here in Tunbridge Wells. 

It's also a great privilege for me to be part of the Underwood and Knott stand at the Spitfire Ground. From Eltham to wherever, what a life we had. Deadly we were all so lucky to have known and played with you. 

From your little friend may your next journey be as great.


Alan Knott, friend and fellow cricket legend pays tribute with a message read by Chris Cowdrey.

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