Almanac Cricket – R G D Willis, former England captain dies aged 70



A sad day for cricket fans with news of the death of former England captain, Bob Willis at age 70. Greatly respected foe on the field, much admired man off the ground.


The mop of curls, the parabolic approach to the wicket, the hustle of the action, the often deadpan face – it seems like just yesterday.


Added an extra given name, Dylan, to honour his favourite musician. RGD Willis sounds so much better than just plain old RG Willis.


Iconic images: the unconscious seagull at Adelaide Oval in 1971, steaming in at Headingly in 1981 – 8/43.


Read more along with multiple tributes by clicking here. And here.


See the official record of Bob’s career by clicking here.


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  1. A huge part of the Ashes iconography of my childhood. Distinctive run up and with hair not unlike that of his musical idol.

    Credited with calling the local currency, “drinking vouchers” which is an expression still used within my various circles.

  2. A damn fine bowler. Joined the victorious Ashes team of 1970-71 as a replacement when Alan Ward broke down, then was sent back to the UK.

    Yep i recall with horror the 8-43 @ Headingley in 1981, in one of the worst Australian defeats in my long memory. Botham set the scene for Australia snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, Willis sealed it.

    He always came across as a nice sort of bloke. The addition of his musical idol , Dylan, to his name has a nice resonance. Robert (Bob) Dylan has outlasted Robert (Bob) George Dylan Willis.

    Vale Bob Willis,


  3. Really saddened to hear of this today. A Pom and thus an Ashes foe, but hugely respected for his whole-hearted efforts and gracious demeanour. Headingly 1981 – such a bitter/sweet memory of a man possessed who would not be denied – Botham had done his bit, now it was Willis’ moment to shine and deliver for England. I just loved his approach to the wicket, curving outwards initially, then arcing in to the delivery crease to a bustling delivery stride, hair flopping all the way. And an entertaining No. 11. RIP.

  4. A sad day indeed. Cricket has lost one of its’ all time greats. RIP Bob Willis

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    A Pom you could like, and a fine competitor.

  6. citrus bob says

    Yes one of the greats of English cricket since the 2nd World War, Did not readily receive the accolades of other players such as Bedser, Botham, Trueman and Statham but was up there with them in every respect. Agree with IH that his demeanour was first class and was a perfect foil for the likes of the brash Botham. One of crickets true gentlemen.

  7. Liam Hauser says

    Although Willis played before my time, he remains entrenched in my mind with regard to Headingley 1981. As an avid reader and writer of cricket history, I could never forget the legacy of RGD Willis.
    His career hung in the balance at the time of the famous Headingley Test, or “The Miracle of Leeds” as described in Anton Rippon’s Classic Moments of the Ashes. A little known fact is that Willis wasn’t originally picked in this famous Test. Mike Hendrick was named due to issues over Willis’ fitness, but Willis was reinstated after turning out for Warwickshire’s seconds.
    Another little known fact is that Willis, despite scoring just 2 at number 11 in England’s second innings, helped put on 37 priceless runs for the last wicket amid Ian Botham’s swashbuckling 149 not out.
    Some cricket descriptions are just so vivid. Like the following: Willis bowled a series of no-balls, and was switched to the Kirkstall Lane end. Australia looked certain to win, at 1-56 (or 56-1 as the English would say) when chasing 130, and then Willis cut a swathe through the Australian line-up.
    Australia crashed to 8-75 before 35 runs were added in just 4 overs. Dennis Lillee was then caught off Willis, who ended a remarkable contest when a yorker knocked out Ray Bright’s middle stump.
    I’ve always disapproved of reports saying that 1981 was Botham’s Ashes, and reports that Botham single-handedly won that series. I’ve also disapproved of Geoff Lawson’s comment that Australia lost to Botham, not really to England.
    Sure, it could be said that nobody played a bigger role than Botham in the Headingley Test of 1981. But Graham Dilley and Chris Old also made hugely decisive contributions, while Willis’ 8-43 sealed his place in Ashes folklore. I’ve never been to England, but because of the historic 1981 Ashes series, I’m just as eager to visit Headingley as any other cricket venue.
    Cricket has lost a prominent identity. We shall all remember RGD Willis, and pay our respects.

  8. RIP RGD Willis.
    One of the greats.
    I can still recall Kim Hughes farming the strike while Willis was bowling in that Test at Headingly. Keeping no less than G Yallop away from the strike.

  9. Smokie was that Headingley, the third test of the series ?

    I reckon that was in the fifth test.


  10. roger lowrey says

    Vale Bob Willis. Left us far too soon. A great bowler and a great person. RDL

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