Sunderland-born cricket legend Bob Willis dies aged 70

Former England captain and cricket pundit Bob Willis has died at the age of 70, after a battle with prostate cancer.

By Tony Gillan
Wednesday, 4th December 2019, 4:41 pm
Updated Thursday, 5th December 2019, 9:26 am

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The Sunderland-born fast bowling legend Bob Willis has died from cancer aged 70.
The Sunderland-born fast bowling legend Bob Willis has died from cancer aged 70.

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

He was born in Sunderland in 1949, but was brought up in Surrey, the county for whom he made his first class debut in 1969. However, most of his county career was at Warwickshire, where he played between 1972 and 1984.

His international test debut came in 1971 when he played in England’s fourth Ashes test against Australia in Sydney. He went on to take 325 wickets, which is still the fourth highest of any Englishman in test cricket.

After retiring, Bob Willis became a key part of Sky Sport's cricket commentary team.

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His also made 308 first-class appearances and taking 889 wickets for Surrey and Warwickshire

He wrote himself into English sporting folklore in 1981. At 32 and recovering from knee surgery, he went into the third Ashes Test at Headingley knowing his international career was approaching a crossroads.

The seeds of an unlikely victory had been sewn by an innings of 149 not out from Ian Botham. But it was Willis who finished the Australians off. Set just 130 to win the Aussies were confident, but Willis took career-best figures of eight for 43 to secure an improbable 18-run victory.

Robert George Dylan Willis was the youngest of three siblings, he added “Dylan” to his name by deed poll as a teenager in tribute to Bob Dylan.

He spent only a matter of weeks on Wearside, where his father Ted was a journalist, before the family moved.

Willis, who was awarded an MBE in 1982, became an important part of the Sky Sports commentary team after his retirement

He is survived by his second wife Lauren and a daughter, Katie, from his first marriage.

His family released a statement which read: “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.”