Cricket: Former England captain Bob Willis dead at 70

A 2012 photo shows Bob Willis in the Royal Box at the Wimbledon tennis championship.
A 2012 photo shows Bob Willis in the Royal Box at the Wimbledon tennis championship.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (REUTERS) - Former England cricket captain and 1981 Ashes hero Bob Willis has died aged 70 after a short illness, his family said in a statement on Wednesday (Dec 4).

The fast-bowler played in 90 tests and 64 one-day internationals for England over more than a decade after his debut in 1971, retiring in 1984.

"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," Sky Sports television quoted the family as saying in a statement.

Willis, who finished his test career with 325 wickets despite bowling with pain from 1975 after surgery on both knees, worked for the broadcaster as a cricket expert after his retirement.

He remains fourth on the all-time list of England wicket takers after Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ian Botham.

Willis's aggressive performance in the 1981 Ashes series against Australia, where he took eight wickets for 43 runs in the third test at Headingley, became part of cricket lore along with Botham's match-saving batting.

Known for a long run up, the seamer was last year named in England's greatest Test XI by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).