LEGENDARY ENGLAND PACER BOB WILLIS DIES
London, UK - Bob Willis, the former England captain and fast bowler who will be forever synonymous with England's 1981 Ashes victory, has died at the age of 70 after a short battle with thyroid cancer.
Willis claimed 325 wickets in a 90-Test career that began on the Ashes tour in 1970-71.
Nicknamed ' Goose' for his unconventionally loose-limbed approach to the crease, he was capable of extreme hostility with the ball, not least against Australia at Headingley in 1981, when - in the wake of Ian Botham's counter-attacking 149 not out - he sealed an incredible 18-run win with figures of eight for 43.
Willis retired in 1984 as England's leading wicket-taker, and second in the world overall, behind Australia's Dennis Lillee.
His national tally was subsequently overhauled by his long-term teammate Botham (383), and more recently James Anderson (575) and Stuart Broad (471).
The fact that Willis endured
as long as he did made him something of a medical miracle, as he had to overcame surgery on both knees in 1975 before going on to claim 899 first-class wickets at 24.99 in 308 appearances.
After retirement, Willis went on to forge a career in the media, and was most recently an acerbic and popular pundit on Sky Sports' post-match show,
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."
He is survived by his wife Lauren, daughter Katie, brother David and sister Ann.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said it was 'deeply saddened to say farewell' to a 'legend of English cricket'.
"We are forever thankful for everything he has done for the game," it added. "Cricket has lost a dear friend."
The Sunderland-born bowler made his international debut aged 21 in the 1971 Ashes after being called up to replace the injured Alan Ward and played the final four Tests of the seven-match series as England won 2-0.
He was appointed captain for the 1982 India tour of England after Keith Fletcher was sacked.
Willis oversaw a weakened team during his tenure, after the likes of Graham Gooch, Geoffrey Boycott and Derek Underwood were banned from international cricket for three years from 1982 for taking part in a rebel tour to South Africa.
He finished with a record of seven wins, five defeats and six draws from his 18 Tests in charge before he was sacked and replaced with David Gower prior to what proved to be Willis' final Test series against West Indies in 1984.
In 29 ODIs under Willis, England won 16 and lost 13.
Willis made his ODI debut in 1973 and played in the 1979 World Cup but sustained a recurrence of his knee injury in the semifinal win over New Zealand and missed the final, which West Indies won by 92 runs. He captained England at the 1983 World Cup where his side was beaten by eventual winner India in the semifinal.
Willis played his final ODI in 1984, finishing with a record of 80 wickets from 64 matches at an average of 24.60.
Willis represented Surrey for the first two years of his professional career before spending 12 years at Warwickshire, finishing with 899 wickets from 308 first-class matches at an average of 24.99. In a statement on Twitter, Surrey said the club was 'devastated' by the news of Willis' passing.