Cricket: Former England captain Bob Willis dead, aged 70, after cancer battle

  • 05/12/2019
Bob Willis in 2017
Bob Willis in 2017 Photo credit: AAP

Former England captain and cricket pundit Bob Willis has died at the age of 70.

The pace bowler played 90 tests for England and had been a popular figure in broadcasting, since his retirement in 1984.

Willis was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago and his health had reportedly deteriorated over the last two months, with a recent scan revealing the cancer had advanced.

"We are heartbroken to lose our beloved Bob, who was an incredible husband, father, brother and grandfather," said Willis' family in a statement. "He made a huge impact on everybody he knew and we will miss him terribly.

"Bob is survived by his wife Lauren, daughter Katie, brother David and sister Ann.

"The Willis family has asked for privacy at this time to mourn the passing of a wonderful man and requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations should be made to Prostate Cancer UK."

Ian Botham reportedly went to visit his former teammate earlier this week, with fellow former England players John Lever and David Brown visiting on Wednesday, before Willis died.

Willis' most famous moment as a player came in the 1981 Ashes series, when his 8/43 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 fast bowler Darren Gough said Willis was "hugely admired".

"As a player he had a big heart, he'd run in - nearly 6ft 6in - and hit the pitch hard," Gough said on Talksport. "At his peak, he was one of the best three bowlers in the world. 

"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 Captain Bob Willis sitting out the 1st Test after failing a fitness test on his neck.   (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty

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 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."