ENGLAND stars past and present have paid tribute to Bob Willis after his death aged 70 following a short illness.
The legendary bowler played 90 Test matches for England between 1971 and 1984, taking 325 wickets – the fourth most in his nation’s history.
Willis – one of the heroes of the Miracle of Headingley in 1981, alongside Ian Botham – passed away following illness, with stars from around the sporting world paying tribute.
In a statement, Willis’ family confirmed his death, saying: “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.”
And the sporting world quickly sent their condolences to the family after the shocking news.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) tweeted: “Cricket has lost a dear friend.”
In a statement, they then said: “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 8-43 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.”
Ex-England batsman Michael Carberry tweeted: “Very sad to hear the passing of Bob Willis.
“Had the pleasure of working with him on @SkyCricket. Great man and knowledge of the game as well as a great bowler. #ripbobwillis”
Another former England star, James Taylor, added: “Awful to hear the passing of Bob Willis.
“I was lucky to work along side him not long ago with @SkyCricket!
“Brilliant cricketer, very knowledgeable and a lovely guy. #rip”
Neil Fairbrother wrote: “Rest in Peace, Bob Willis, an English cricket great!!!”
Ex-England spinner Ashley Giles said: “Such sad news about Bob Willis, he was a great man.”
Lord’s, the Home of Cricket, tweeted: “We’re very sad to hear of the passing of MCC Honorary Life Member, Bob Willis.
“A Lord’s legend & former England captain whose name is on the Honours Boards three times. Our thoughts are with his friends and family.”
Surrey Cricket – for whom Willis played between 1969 and 1971 – also penned a moving tribute.
They tweeted: “All at Surrey County Cricket Club are devastated to learn of the passing of former Surrey and England bowler Bob Willis.
“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”
Yorkshire CCC wrote: “Yorkshire Cricket are devastated to hear of the passing of Bob Willis.
“One of the Headingley heroes from the 1981 Ashes triumph.”
Famous analyst Simon Hughes said: “What incredibly sad news about Bob Willis.
“A lionhearted bowler, a brilliant pundit, hilarious story-teller and a loyal friend to so many. A major loss to our world. RIP”
Ex-England all-rounder Rikki Clarke said: “Such sad news to hear the passing of Bob Willis. #rip”
Another former ineternational star, Phillip DeFreitas, wrote: “RIP Bob Willis”, alongside a praying emoji.
Former football star Matt Le Tissier tweeted: “RIP Bob Willis.
“Never imagined when I was growing up watching him destroy the Aussies in 1981 that many years later hed teach me how to play bridge in a Spanish golf clubhouse after torrential rain had cancelled our round!
“Absolute gent and thoughts with his family.”
Gary Lineker added: “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”
Big cricket fan Piers Morgan tweeted: “RIP Bob Willis, 70.
“One of England’s greatest ever cricketers, a fabulously acerbic commentator, and wonderfully entertaining, intelligent, uncompromising & amusing company.
“Enjoyed many fun times with him. A true British sporting legend & rare spirit.”
Former Sunderland FC boss Peter Reid wrote: “My God, Bob Willis RIP, Legend.”
Stephen Fry added: “Oh no, not Bob Willis… what joy he gave, and what a marvellous man. That 8 for 43.
“Used to lunch with him occasionally to talk cricket, Wagner and Bob Dylan, his three great passions.”