Cricket family pays tribute to Bob Willis after England legend dies at 70

The former England captain took 325 Test wickets in 90 games, also playing in 64 ODIs. Only Sir Ian Botham, James Anderson and Stuart Broad have surpassed his tally for England

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Tributes have been paid to Bob Willis after the fast bowler died on Wednesday, aged 70.

The former England captain took 325 Test wickets in 90 games, also playing in 64 ODIs. Only Sir Ian Botham, James Anderson and Stuart Broad have surpassed his tally for England.

His finest hour came at Headingley in 1981; he claimed figures of 8 for 43 as England beat Australia in remarkable circumstances in what would later become known as "Botham's Ashes", before going on to enjoy a long career in broadcasting.

Nasser Hussain, who worked alongside Willis in the Sky Sports commentary box, described him as “a model professional” and “a fun-loving guy”.

“There will not be many who came across Bob Willis without liking him,” Hussain told the Daily Mail. “He had the time of day for everyone, whoever they were, and he never took himself too seriously. Those who knew him will not have a bad word to say about him and that is the perfect tribute. He was a great cricketer but more importantly he was an even better bloke who will be missed by the whole cricketing world.”

Simon Hughes, editor of The Cricketer, reflected on “a lionhearted bowler, a brilliant pundit, hilarious story-teller and a loyal friend to so many. A major loss to our world.”

Sir Viv Richards added: “Such a sad time for cricket fans all around the world. Rest in peace Bob. You shall be remembered forever for what you have done on the pitch!”

Graeme Fowler made his Test debut in an England team captained by Willis. It was he who gave Fowler the nickname ‘Foxy’ that has since stuck. He wrote: “Away from cameras he was a very funny man with a huge thirst for life. I’ll miss him. A great bowler. A great man.”

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Bob Willis was named in England's greatest ever Test XI in 2018

“Used to lunch with him occasionally to talk cricket, Wagner and Bob Dylan, his three great passions,” recalled English actor Stephen Fry. Willis’ admiration for Dylan was such that he added the American singer’s surname to his own name, becoming Robert George Dylan Willis.

Graham Gooch, who played alongside Willis for England, called him “an iconic figure in world cricket” and “a real inspiration”.

“Bob was a great inspiration to a lot of players – generation after generation,” he said. “Before I played for England, he was an example. When I got into the England side regularly in 1978, he was one of the players along with Mike Brearley. He helped the likes of myself, Ian Botham, Mike Gatting, David Gower, John Emburey. He was a real inspiration. It’s so sad that anyone loses their life at such a young age.

“He was a character. His iconic performance at Headingley in 1981, which took one of the most famous games in Test cricket away from Australia to win the game from a similar situation where we followed on, will live long in everyone’s memory.

“His effort, his discipline as a fast bowler and the way that he worked at his game and his fitness was an example to everyone who played with him and everyone who saw him play.”

Derek Pringle, another who made his England bow under Willis’ captaincy – in a win over India in which Willis took nine wickets, stated that the iconic Ashes victory at Headingley “was as much his triumph as Beefy Botham’s”.

Botham made an unbeaten 149, took six first-innings wickets and was handed the man of the match award. Yet, it was Willis’ extraordinary, hostile spell in the fourth innings that handed England an unlikely win.

Paul Allott, Willis' former Sky broadcast partner and teammate, was with his friend when he passed away on Wednesday.

"Beneath that quite stern exterior there was a heart of gold," he told the Manchester Evening News.

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

"Bob was such a sweet, sweet guy."

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