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English cricket mourns Dilley

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Graham Dilley

Graham Dilley, though a bowler by trade, makes his most memorable contribution for England during the epic Ashes Test at Headingley in 1981

ECB chief executive David Collier today paid tribute to former England fast bowler Graham Dilley, who has died aged 52 after a short illness.

The former Kent and Worcestershire bowler played 41 Tests and 36 one-day internationals for England during a 10-year international career which encompassed two Ashes wins in 1981 and 1986-87.

One of the quickest bowlers of his generation, Dilley took 138 Test wickets at 29.78 for his country but his best remembered contribution to the England cause came with the bat - supporting Ian Botham in a 117-run partnership which helped England to a famous Ashes win over Australia at Headingley in 1981.

After retiring, he moved into coaching and enjoyed spells as an assistant coach with the England men’s team and bowling coach to the England women’s team before taking up a position as head cricket coach at Loughborough University.

Collier said: “Graham made a life-long contribution to the game of cricket at all levels and we are deeply saddened by the sad news this morning. He will be fondly remembered for his contributions both as a player and a coach.

“Graham inspired many young cricketers through the University programme and was a highly respected coach to our representative teams.

“Few will forget his contribution during the historic Ashes win at Headingley in 1981 and the part he played in two Ashes series victories.

“Graham will be sadly missed by all his friends throughout cricket and ECB sends our deepest condolences to Graham’s family.”

ECB managing director - England Cricket Hugh Morris said: “This is very sad news for Graham’s many friends and colleagues in cricket both in this country and overseas.

Graham Dilley

Dilley in full flow during the 1986/87 Ashes. "On his day he was the best," Ian Botham said today of his former England team-mate and close friend

“As well as being a bowler of the highest class, Graham made an immense contribution to our game as a coach and his ability to impart his knowledge and wisdom to future generations of young cricketers will be sorely missed.”

Botham admitted to being “very shocked” by news of Dilley’s death.

“It’s a very sad day,” he said. “I’ve got so many fond memories of him. He was a fantastic cricketer who had a lot of talent.

“He was plagued with injuries - his neck and knees - which probably stopped him playing a lot more for England, but on his day he was the best.

“I had a lot of great times with him. He had a great sense of humour, he always wanted to be part of the party and join in. He was a good bloke to be around.”

Mike Gatting, who captained Dilley during England’s Ashes triumph Down Under in 1986/87, saluted the impact he made as a player and coach.

“We played a lot of cricket together. He was a very good friend. It's a shock because it has happened so suddenly,” said Gatting, now the ECB managing director - cricket partnerships.

“[The Headingley Test] was one of the many things Graham did throughout his career. He was a tremendous cricketer.

“He was up at Loughborough, helping the kids become better cricketers. He’s been doing it all his life, passing on his knowledge and views on cricket and doing a very good job.

“He would sit down and talk to people about cricket. He was happy to do that.”

Two of England’s current side paid tribute, with Stuart Broad writing on Twitter: “Very sad to hear about Graham Dilley. Wonderful fast bowler and lovely man. 52 is too young. RIP.”

Graham Dilley & Mike Gatting

Dilley, doing his best impersonation of David Gower, and Mike Gatting enjoy England's fancy dress party on the 1986/87 tour of Australia

Kevin Pietersen added on the social networking site: “What an amazing guy Graham Dilley was. Always smiling & always helping spread his knowledge about our great game. RIP Dill!!! Sad day.”

Worcestershire chief executive David Leatherdale, who played alongside Dilley for the county, admitted the death of his former team-mate was “a sad loss”.

“It’s come very much as a shock to the club and to a lot of individuals at the club,” Leatherdale said.

“Having had the pleasure of playing in the same team as Graham, it is a very sad day for both the club and cricket as a whole.

“Graham was a major part of the success the club had in the late 1980s. There are fond memories personally and from the club as well.”