Former England captain and Sky Sports Cricket expert Bob Willis has died at the age of 70 after a long illness.
The fast bowler was a mainstay of the England team for more than a decade, playing in 90 Tests and 64 one-day internationals after his debut in 1971, and went on to enjoy a long career in broadcasting after his retirement in 1984.
Willis, who is survived by his wife Lauren, daughter Katie, brother David and sister Ann, died surrounded by his family on Wednesday.
“We are heartbroken to lose our beloved Bob, who was an incredible husband, father, brother and grandfather,” his family said in a statement.
“He made a huge impact on everybody he knew and we will miss him terribly.”
Willis finished his Test career with 325 wickets, which to this day puts him fourth on the all-time list of England wicket-takers behind James Anderson, Ian Botham and Stuart Broad.
The England and Wales Cricket Board said “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 8-43 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.”
He played a key part in what became known as ‘Botham’s Ashes’ when his hostile bowling saw him take 8-43 in the memorable third Test at Headingley that was won from a seemingly-impossible position.
Botham would later describe his team-mate as a “tremendous trier, a great team-man and an inspiration – the only world-class fast bowler in my time as an England player”.
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.”
Willis’ former club Warwickshire, where he played at for 12 years, posted: “Warwickshire CCC is deeply saddened to learn that former captain and fast bowler Bob Willis has passed away at the age of 70.
“The thoughts of all Bears are with his family and friends.”
Sky Sports managing director Rob Webster said: “Our hearts go out to Bob’s family at such a sad time, we have lost an icon of British sport and a wonderful man.
“A cricketer of fantastic talent, his career was etched with high points and incredible achievements at the highest level. Captaining England and setting a tremendous standard as a fast bowler, his game was the stuff of legend and his records will stand the test of time.
“Joining Sky and becoming part of our coverage three decades ago he has made a similar impact on how we have broadcast the game to our viewers. His style and, in particular, his voice will always be remembered fondly. We shall miss him.”