Former England captain and cricket pundit Bob Willis has died at the age of 70, Sky Sports has announced.
The pace bowler played 90 Tests for England and has been a popular figure in broadcasting since his retirement in 1984.
Willis’ family released a statement to Sky News which read: “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.”
Willis’ family confirmed that he died after a long illness, leaving behind wife Lauren, daughter Katie, brother David and sister Ann.
His most famous moment as a player came in the 1981 Ashes series as his eight for 43 fired England to a remarkable win in the third Test at Headingley.
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.
“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”
Former England bowler Mike Selvey tweeted: “Just received the saddest of sad news. Bob Willis, great fast bowler, opponent, team mate, room mate, and wonderful bloke has passed away. Condolences to Lauren and family.”
Analyst and former Middlesex bowler Simon Hughes tweeted: “What incredibly sad news about Bob Willis. A lionhearted bowler, a brilliant pundit, hilarious story-teller and a loyal friend to so many. A major loss to our world. RIP”
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 he 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.
“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.”
England team director Ashley Giles tweeted: “Such sad news about Bob Willis, he was a great man”
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.
“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.”
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