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No case of whispering Bob

Bob Willis was a genuine quick bowler – exactly the kind you need in Australia. He reminisces about Ashes tours good and bad, reports James Coyne

Whatever happens to Craig Overton, Mason Crane or any other England Test debutant over the coming weeks, it is unlikely to be as rancorous as Bob Willis’ first experience of an Ashes tour.

Back in 1970/71, the England captain Ray Illingworth and his cantankerous fast bowler John Snow found themselves pitted against hostile Australian crowds and home umpires reluctant to raise their finger. Not only that, the old-world amateurism of England tour manager David Clark and vice-captain Colin Cowdrey seemed rather more concerned with maintaining diplomatic niceties than winning back the urn.

It was quite some environment for Willis, only 21 and with a handful of first-class games for Surrey, to be thrown in to. He cast his mind back to perhaps the most charged Ashes tour since Bodyline, in conversation with The Cricketer editor Simon Hughes and in front of a rapt Cricketer Live audience at the Tabernacle Theatre in London.

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About The Cricketer Magazine

England’s greatest batsmen – we asked 27 experts to name their top 5, and collated the results. There are some fascinating choices! The superb Simon Barnes, with the best turn of phrase in sports journalism, on England’s year so far. The feisty Jarrod Kimber on the state of play in Australian cricket. The elegant and massively under-rated David Townsend on Adelaide Oval. A lovely piece on the greatness of Dennis Lillee, by Simon Hughes. A forensic look at the problems at Sussex, by the man in the know, Bruce Talbot.