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On this day in 2019: Bob Willis dies at age of 70

Former England captain Bob Willis, with Ian Botham, left, and Allan Lamb, centre (Rui Vieira/PA)
Former England captain Bob Willis, with Ian Botham, left, and Allan Lamb, centre (Rui Vieira/PA)

Former England captain and cricket pundit Bob Willis died on December 4, 2019 at the age of 70.

The pace bowler, who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer three years previously, played 90 Tests for England and had been a popular figure in broadcasting following his retirement in 1984.

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.”

England’s Bob Willis, right, and Mike Gatting, centre, celebrate after they combined to dismiss Australia’s Graham Yallop in the famous Headingley Ashes Test in 1981
England’s Bob Willis, right, and Mike Gatting, centre, celebrate after they combined to dismiss Australia’s Graham Yallop in the famous Headingley Ashes Test in 1981 (PA)

Willis’ 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 Test wicket-taker of all time with 325 wickets.

The England and Wales Cricket Board said in a statement that cricket had lost “a dear friend”.

“The ECB is deeply saddened to say farewell to Bob Willis, a legend of English cricket,” the statement read.

“He will always be remembered for his outstanding cricket career. 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.”

Willis’ former team-mate Paul Allott told Sky Sports News: “I was there when Bob passed away with Lauren, his wife, and daughter in Wimbledon. It was a peaceful passing but it was obviously a hugely emotional moment.

“We’ve known each other for more than 40 years. Beneath that quite stern exterior that he portrayed on Sky Sports there was a heart of gold.

“He was an extremely kind and gentle individual and we became the very best of friends.”

The Bob Willis Trophy was contested in 2020 and 2021 in his honour and is now presented to England’s player of the year at the Cricket Writers’ Club awards.