England strive to give Underwood perfect recall

The volume of the cheer from the codgers in the Long Room startled the England players as they took the field at the start of play yesterday. England had given them something to cheer because very few of the MCC members present were born when Hedley Verity (inset), the great Yorkshire left-arm spin bowler took 15 for 104 in 1934 and England beat Australia by an innings and 38 runs.

In the 18 Ashes Tests at Lord's since then Australia have won nine, including five of the last six played, and nine have been drawn. For England this has been one of the longest losing streaks in sporting history, but by the end of play with the lead stretching beyond 500, England established a strong position from which to end it, and not before time.

This year MCC have made an occasion out of ringing the bell that announces the start of the each session by having the deed done by a celebrated figure in the life of cricket. On Friday morning it was rung by Richie Benaud, who played in one easy Australian victory in 1956.

Yesterday the bell was rung by Derek Underwood the mesmerising Kent and England spinner, who is this year's president of MCC now the club prefer their head to be a former player rather than a retired general or a landed aristocrat. Underwood has the somewhat dubious distinction of having played in the two Lord's Tests since 1934 that England had a chance, however faint, of winning

Taking a brief time-out from making sure his guests in the President's Box were fuelled with champagne or Pimm's, Underwood recalled a first sniff of victory in 1968. That year England bowled Australia out for 78, when David Brown of Warwickshire carved through the Australian batting with 5 for 42, but that was on the fourth day after Colin Cowdrey had declared at the conclusion of three days of rain breaks on 351 for 7.

Underwood recalls the thrill of watching Colin Milburn, the Billy Bunter-like figure who batted at No 3, before losing the sight of an eye in a car crash, score 67 runs in only 83 minutes on the second morning. On day five the conditions suited Underwood's bowling and the Australians played him with so much respect that his figures were 18-15-8-2 Those were two of four wickets to fall as the rains came again and Australia ended the match on 127 for 4 – still 150 behind. A sniff had been snuffed by England's weather.

The weather was no help in 1977 either, the second time that England could conceive of an Ashes win at Lord's. Underwood was still in the team which was captained for the first time by Mike Brearley following Tony Greig's decision to play for Kerry Packer. Australia had a dour outfit that year ("not colourless but a light shade of grey" said Wisden), but England scored 216 and 305, with Bob Woolmer contributing 120. Australia led on the first innings with 296, Bob Willis taking 7 for 78. This left Australia 226 to win. Underwood, who had had an anonymous first innings, took 2 for 16 in 10 overs in the second, which ended with Australia on 114 for 6 still 112 runs behind.

Underwood did not remember the game at all. When reminded of the scores he noted that he had not made a huge contribution: "It was just another Test." Old cricketers forget.

Judging by the scorecard, England appear to have established a winning position, but Brearley speaking in the press box yesterday, thought too much time had been lost to rain (four hours on day two) to give England victory.

Underwood was delighted by England's bowling on Friday and is contemplating a win at Lord's at last. If England do so, none of them is likely to forget. Nor is Underwood.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before