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Bob Willis dies aged 70: ‘cricket has lost a dear friend’

Bob Willis was a former England captain and cricket pundit
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Bob Willis was a former England captain and cricket pundit
Description 

Bob Willis was a former England captain and cricket pundit  

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Bob Willis was a former England captain and cricket pundit

Tributes paid to England’s hero of the 1981 Ashes Test win at Headingley

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Thursday, December 5, 2019 - 8:57am

Tributes have been paid to Bob Willis, the former England captain and fast bowler, who has died at the age of 70 after a long battle with prostate cancer. 

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

Willis took 325 wickets in 90 Tests between 1971 and 1984, also captaining his country in 18 of those matches. But it was the eight wickets he took at Headingley in the summer of 1981 that earned him his place in English cricket folklore. 

Trailing 1-0 in the Ashes series against a swaggering Australia, England looked on course for another crushing defeat in Yorkshire when they were forced to follow on. 

Ian Botham scored a spectacular 149 in England’s second innings to give the home side the faintest glimmer of hope, but the bookmakers were so confident Australia would knock off the 129 runs needed for victory the odds were 500-1 against an English win.

Cue one of the most devastating spells in Test match bowling history as Willis tore through the Aussie batsmen. He finished with figures of 8-43 as the tourists were skittled out for 111.

England went on to win the series and although they were dubbed “Botham’s Ashes”, the contribution of Willis – who took 29 wickets at 22.96 in six matches – was huge.

Retiring from cricket in 1984, having fought back from serious knee injury, Willis quickly established a reputation as an acerbic pundit. 

His dry wit and deadpan delivery belied a sharp cricket mind and despite his often candid criticism of England performances he was a popular figure among later generations of players.

Video of Cricket hero Bob Willis dies age 70 - Relive his greatest moments

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Tributes to Bob Willis: 1949-2019

England and Wales Cricket Board

“We are forever thankful for everything he has done for the game. Cricket has lost a dear friend.” 

Nasser Hussain, former England captain and fellow pundit

Those who knew him will not have a bad word to say about him and that is the perfect tribute. He was a great cricketer but more importantly he was an even better bloke who will be missed by the whole cricketing world.” 

David Gower, former team-mate

He was a bright man, very opinionated in all sorts of things, not just cricket, and was such very, very good company.”

Mike Brearley, England captain in 1981

“He was fierce, but he wasn't unpleasant… He wanted the best and wanted us to produce our best.”

Mark Butcher, former England cricketer

Warm, funny, generous - will miss Uncle Bob enormously.” 

Stephen Fry, actor and writer

What joy he gave, and what a marvellous man. That 8 for 43. Used to lunch with him occasionally to talk cricket, Wagner and Bob Dylan, his three great passions.”

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