I continue to slowly accumulate old Eagles through the odd fortuitous e-Bay purchase here and there. The latest lot filled in three issues from 1961 and sparked a powerful moment of delight.
For once, this had nothing to do with Eagle‘s array of great comic strips, though I was pleased to fill a little more of the mosaic of stories in ‘Storm Nelson’, ‘Riders of the Range’ and ‘Luck of the Legion’. (I also got more episodes of ‘Knights of the Road’ but that was a bad idea from start to finish).
What caught my eye was something on the sports page. There was a series on cricket, in which prominent cricketers of the period gave their thoughts on how to best perform their various roles in the game. When it came to fast bowling, the star of choice was Lancashire’s Brian Statham, who would go on, eighteen months later, to become (albeit briefly) England’s greatest Test wicket-taker, overtaking Alec Bedser.
Statham set out briefly but succinctly the basic requirements for fast bowling in the main article, and was asked to give his opinion of the action of a Kent sixteen-year old’s action. Four photos broke down the lad’s action, bowling left-arm round the wicket in the nets. Statham was approving, finding nothing at all wrong with the lad’s action, though he didn’t go on to predict a great future for the lad, not on such scanty evidence.
Besides, we all know that these lads who cameo like this are never heard of again, no matter how good their teenage action. Except that this one was. He would slow his action a little in the mid-Sixties and concentrate on left arm spin, bowled at a medium-pacer’s speed, of relentless, unerring accuracy, earning the nickname ‘Deadly’. He would play 86 Tests for England, taking 297 wickets, and become the third youngest player ever to do the Double of 100 Test wickets and 1,000 First Class wickets.
The sixteen year old boy being praised by Brian Statham was none other than Derek Underwood.