England cricketer Bob Willis has died at the age of 70. Picture: Supplied
England cricketer Bob Willis has died at the age of 70. Picture: Supplied

Cricket world mourns legend’s death

Former England captain and cricket pundit Bob Willis has died at the age of 70.

The pace bowler played 90 Tests for England and has been a popular figure in broadcasting since his retirement in 1984.

It is understood Willis, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago, had begun to deteriorate in health over the last two months, with a recent scan revealing the cancer had advanced.

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(From left) John Lever, Bob Willis, Graham Roope and Derek Randall at The Oval in “Pommie Power” T-shirts after they defeated Australia in the 1977 Ashes series.
(From left) John Lever, Bob Willis, Graham Roope and Derek Randall at The Oval in “Pommie Power” T-shirts after they defeated Australia in the 1977 Ashes series.

Willis' family said in a statement: "We are heartbroken to lose our beloved Bob, who was an incredible husband, father, brother and grandfather. He made a huge impact on everybody he knew and we will miss him terribly.

"Bob is survived by his wife Lauren, daughter Katie, brother David and sister Ann.

"The Willis family has asked for privacy at this time to mourn the passing of a wonderful man and requests that in lieu of flowers, donations should be made to Prostate Cancer UK.

 

It is understood Ian Botham went to see his former team-mate earlier this week, with fellow former England players John Lever and David Brown visiting on Wednesday before Willis died.

 

Willis' most famous moment as a player came in the 1981 Ashes series as his 8-43 fired England to a remarkable 18-run win in the third Test at Headingley.

It was made even more remarkable because his place in the side had seemed to be under threat.

England, trailing 1-0 in the series, were forced to follow on and needed Botham's spectacular 149 not out to force Australia to bat again, setting them 129 to win.

 

Bob Willis and Greg Chappell shake hands at the Adelaide Oval in 1982.
Bob Willis and Greg Chappell shake hands at the Adelaide Oval in 1982.

Willis then ripped apart the already shell-shocked Australians with his devastating spell as they fell short of their target, all out for 111.

England went on to win the series 3-1 and Willis finished with 29 wickets at 22.96 in six matches

He is England's fourth highest wicket-taker of all time with 325 wickets.

Willis' former county Surrey paid tribute on Twitter, saying: "All at Surrey County Cricket Club are devastated to learn of the passing of former Surrey and England bowler Bob Willis.

 

Bob Willis was one of England’s greatest ever bowlers.
Bob Willis was one of England’s greatest ever bowlers.


"Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time."

Former England fast bowler Darren Gough said Willis was "hugely admired".

"As a player he had a big heart, he'd run in, nearly 6ft 6ins, and hit the pitch hard. At his peak was one of the best three bowlers in the world," Gough said on Talksport.

"He was hugely admired all around the world. Everybody knew who he was.

Willis renews hostilities with Rick McCosker.
Willis renews hostilities with Rick McCosker.

"If you just saw him on TV people might think he's a bit straight, but in his company over a glass of wine he would make you laugh all night."

The England and Wales Cricket Board said that "cricket had lost a dear friend".

"The ECB is deeply saddened to say farewell to Bob Willis, a legend of English cricket, at the age of 70," a statement read.

"Bob spearheaded the England bowling attack for more than a decade and took 325 Test wickets.

 

The bowler pictured in 1977.
The bowler pictured in 1977.

"He will always be remembered for his outstanding cricket career, in particular his eight for 43 in the dramatic Headingley Test victory over Australia in 1981.

"In later years as a broadcaster Bob was a perceptive and respected voice at the microphone. We are forever thankful for everything he has done for the game.

"Everyone at the ECB sends sincere condolences to his family. Cricket has lost a dear friend."

Bob Willis hands over a seagull temporarily stunned by a rocket-like leg glance from Australian opening batsman Keith Stackpole. The bowler was a popular figure in Australia.
Bob Willis hands over a seagull temporarily stunned by a rocket-like leg glance from Australian opening batsman Keith Stackpole. The bowler was a popular figure in Australia.


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