Bob Willis, who famously bowled England to a dramatic Test win against Australia in 1981, died aged 70 on Wednesday.
Willis played in 90 Tests, taking 325 wickets with his aggressive pace bowling and also captained England for a spell before retiring in 1984 and taking up a career in broadcasting.
His most famous moment as a player came in the 1981 Ashes series, known as “Botham’s Ashes” for Ian Botham’s devastating displays with bat and ball, when he took 8-43 in a remarkable spell of fast bowling in the third Test at Headingley that changed the course of the series.
It is understood that Willis, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago, had begun to deteriorate in health over the past 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 a statement from the Willis family.
“He made a huge impact on everybody he knew and we will miss him terribly.”
The England and Wales Cricket Board said it was deeply saddened by Willis’s death, adding: “Cricket has lost a dear friend”.
“He will always be remembered for his outstanding cricket career.... In later years as a broadcaster Bob was a perceptive and respected voice at the microphone,” the ECB said in a statement.
Star all-rounder Botham previously described his teammate as a “tremendous trier, a great team man and an inspiration -- the only world-class fast bowler in my time as an England player”.
Former England captain David Gower, who played with Willis and was a colleague of his at Sky Sports, described him as “a very loyal friend and a loyal supporter”.
“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 told BBC Radio. “He was a very loyal friend and a loyal supporter.
New Zealand’s record wicket-taker Richard Hadlee called Willis “one of the great fast bowlers of his time.”
“Bob was the archetypal fast-bowler: big, tall, aggressive - very quick and extremely competitive,” said all-rounder Hadlee, who took 431 Test wickets.
Willis made his international debut aged 21 in the 1971 Ashes in Australia.
What they said
Bob Willis was a terrific fast bowler, with a run-up that was unique. Not a fluent run-up but once the ball left his hand it was terror for the batsman.
----Indian great Kapil Dev
So sad at the news of bob Willis .. may his soul rest in peace .. love to his entire family .. india will miss a stalwart .
Just saw the news on Bob Willis and very sad indeed. Had the pleasure of working with him for @SkyCricket and off air I just loved listening to his great stories on how they played the game back in the day. RIP Great man.
----- Allan Donald
Saddened to hear that Bob Willis has died. One of our greatest fast bowlers. Met him on many occasions and he was always great company with a sense of humour that was as sharp as his bowling. #RIPBob.
--- Gary Lineker