Bob Willis, former England cricket captain, dies aged 70

Willis, who captained England between 1982 and 1984, played in 90 Test matches with his most memorable performance taking eight for 43.

Former England captain Bob Willis has died aged 70.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Former England captain and fearsome pace bowler Bob Willis has died aged 70, his family announced on Wednesday.

Willis, who captained his country between 1982 and 1984, played in 90 Test matches with his most memorable performance taking eight for 43 in the Australian second innings of the third Ashes Test in 1981.

That series was known as 'Botham's Ashes' due to the remarkable performances of England all-rounder Ian Botham.

Tremendous trier

Botham would later describe his team-mate as a “tremendous trier, a great team man and an inspiration -- the only world-class fast bowler in my time as an England player.”

Willis finished his Test career with 325 wickets, which puts him fourth on the all-time list of England wicket-takers behind James Anderson, Botham and Stuart Broad.

“We are heartbroken to lose our beloved Bob, who was an incredible husband, father, brother and grandfather,” read the Willis family statement.

“He made a huge impact on everybody he knew and we will miss him terribly.”

Breathing fire

Willis -- who went on to become a respected pundit on Sky Sports -- made his international debut aged 21 in the 1971 Ashes after being called up to replace the injured Alan Ward and played the final four Tests of the seven-match series as England won 2-0.

With his great mop of brown curls, he struck fear into many of the world's finest batsmen with his unorthodox delivery and showed great resilience in coming back from surgery on both knees in 1975.

He showed the same stubborn determination when his Test place looked to be at risk during the 1981 Ashes series.

England, trailing 1-0 in the series, was forced to follow on and needed Botham's spectacular 149 not out to force Australia to bat again, setting it 129 to win.

Willis then ripped apart the already shell-shocked Australians with his devastating spell as they fell short of their target, all out for 111.

England went on to win the series 3-1 and Willis finished with 29 wickets at 22.96 in six matches.

The former international cricketer is survived by his wife Lauren, daughter Katie, brother David and sister Ann.