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Ex-England skipper Bob Willis dies aged 70

By AAP Newswire

Cricket has lost "a dear friend" on Wednesday with the death of former England captain Bob Willis.

The pace bowler, who played 90 Tests for England and became a popular figure in broadcasting after his retirement in 1984, was 70.

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

It is understood Willis, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago, had begun to deteriorate in health over the last two months, with a recent scan revealing the cancer had advanced.

The England and Wales Cricket Board said in a statement: "The ECB is deeply saddened to say farewell to Bob Willis, a legend of English cricket, at the age of 70.

"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 eight for 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."

Willis remains England's fourth-highest wicket-taker and his most famous moment as a player came in that remarkable third Ashes Test at Headingley.

Ian Botham's innings of 149 had helped set Australia a target of just 130 to win when Willis produced the performance of his life to secure an improbable 18-run victory.

It is understood Botham went to see his former teammate earlier this week, with fellow former England players John Lever, David Brown and Paul Allott visiting on Wednesday.

"I was there when Bob passed away with Lauren his wife and daughter in Wimbledon this afternoon," Allott told Sky Sports News.

"It was a peaceful passing but it was obviously a hugely emotional moment."

Willis's 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."

Former England batsman David Gower told BBC Radio 5 live: "I toured with him as a captain and I took over the captaincy from him and then had him as what was called in those days as an assistant manager.

"He was a very loyal friend and a loyal supporter."

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

"He was hugely admired all around the world. Everybody knew who he was."

Captain Joe Root was among a number of current England players to pay tribute to Willis throughout the day.

"A true England great. Fantastic player, pundit and a lovely man with a great sense of humour. Love to all his close family and friends as well," captain Joe Root wrote.