LEG­ENDARY ENG­LAND PACER BOB WIL­LIS DIES

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE -

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,

The Ver­dict.

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.

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