Warwickshire County Cricket Club is deeply saddened to learn that former captain and fast bowler Bob Willis has passed away at the age of 70.

Warwickshire County Cricket Club is deeply saddened to learn that former captain and fast bowler Bob Willis has passed away at the age of 70.

Willis was one of the most distinguished cricketers of his generation, forging a long and famous England career after joining Warwickshire from Surrey in 1972.

Willis moved to Edgbaston from The Oval in search of regular first-team cricket and was immediately part of the Warwickshire side that won the 1972 county championship. He was awarded his cap that season in which he took a hat-trick against Derbyshire, repeating the hat-trick feat in a tour match against West Indies four years later.

Plagued by injury trouble throughout his career, Willis underwent surgery on both knees in 1975 and it was testament to his strength of character, as well as bowling skills, that he then went on to become England’s premier fast bowler of his generation. The mop-hair, the long run-up and the unique action was mimicked by schoolboys in playgrounds and cricket clubs across the country, most of all in 1981 when his Test-best performance of eight for 43 powered England to one of their most famous Ashes victories, by 18 runs at Headingley in 1981.

Willis took 325 Test wickets at an average of 25.20, winning 90 caps from 1970 to 1984. By the time he retired, only Dennis Lillee had more Test wickets and even now only three England bowlers have exceeded Willis’s total.

He captained England in 18 Tests and 29 one day internationals but took over at a difficult time when several senior England players were banned for going on a rebel tour to South Africa. In all he took 899 first-class wickets at 24.99 plus a further 421 one-day wickets at 20.18. In 1982 he was awarded an MBE for his services to the game.

Willis made no secret of his difficulty in lifting himself for the grind of county cricket and at times had a difficult relationship with some Bears fans. But he retained great affection for the club and, earlier this year, when asked if he still felt an affinity for Warwickshire, he answered: “Very much so. I had the honour of being made an honorary life-member and I always get a very warm welcome when I go to Edgbaston. It doesn’t matter if the chairman or the chief executive has changed and if ever I am introduced to the crowd I get a very warm reception. I love going back to the ground.”

Willis captained Warwickshire from 1980-84 and led the side to the 1980 John Player League. He also sat on the committee from 1981-87. He took 353 first-class wickets for the county at 24.84, with best figures of eight for 32 against Gloucestershire in 1977.

After retiring from playing, Willis became a commentator with the BBC before leaving for Sky Sports. In more recent years he was an opinionated pundit on The Debate and The Verdict shows, giving forthright views on the day’s play and the players’ efforts. He was also  the author of several books during the late 1970s to the mid 1980s on the game.

He retired from the game in 1984, having taking 353 First Class wickets for the club at an average of 24.84 and 185 List A wickets at 19.75.

With 325 wickets in 90 Test matches, Bob is also recognised as one of the leading fast bowlers that England has ever produced and is fourth in the list of the country’s leading Test wicket takers, behind only James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Sir Ian Botham.

After retiring, Bob became one of the most recognised figures in cricket broadcasting with Sky Sports and enjoyed a regular role in the Cricket Debate show following every day of play in an England Test match.

Everyone’s thoughts at Warwickshire County Cricket Club are with Bob’s family and friends.