Former England bowler Graham Dilley dies

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Former England fast bowler and Ashes-winner Graham Dilley has died at the age of 52 after a short illness, the England and Wales Cricket Board have confirmed.

Dilley, who played in 41 Tests and took 138 wickets, will also be remembered forever for the part his tail-end batting played in the Ian Botham-led heroics which turned round England's fortunes against Australia in the famous Ashes Test at Headingley in 1981.

In a 10-year international career, Dilley - initially of Kent and then Worcestershire - helped England win the urn in that astounding 1981 series, and retain it Down Under in 1986-87.

Dilley helped Botham put on 117 runs for the eighth wicket in Leeds, after England had followed on in an apparently impossible position.

They went on to win the match by 18 runs on the back of Botham's 149 not out and Bob Willis' eight for 43.

After retiring, Dilley became an assistant England coach and then bowling coach of the national women's team.

ECB chief executive David Collier paid tribute today.

"Graham made a lifelong contribution to the game of cricket at all levels, and we are deeply saddened by the sad news this morning," he said.

"He will be fondly remembered for his contributions, both as a player and a coach.

"Graham inspired many young cricketers through the (Loughborough) University programme and was a highly-respected coach to our representative teams."

It was on the field, though, that he made his name - especially in that memorable and miraculous Ashes Test.

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

"Graham will be sadly missed by all his friends throughout cricket, and ECB send our deepest condolences to Graham's family."

ECB managing director Hugh Morris said: "This is very sad news for Graham's many friends and colleagues in cricket, both in this country and overseas.

"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 was shocked to hear the news that his friend had passed away.

"We only heard a few days ago how ill Graham was," he told Sky Sports News.

"They were saying it was very serious and they were talking maybe two weeks and he's gone in less than two days.

"We're all shocked that this can happen to someone who's 52. Very shocked."

And Botham, who joined Worcestershire at the same time as Dilley in arguably the county's most successful period during the late 1980s, paid tribute to his former team-mate.

"I've got so many fond memories of him. He ran in to bowl in the Caribbean, first ball, and the heel fell off his boot.

"Typical Graham he's only brought one pair with him on an England tour so there was panic there, but 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. He was quite quiet and reserved until you got to know him, he wasn't a great social person until you got to know him, but then he was the life and soul of the party.

"It's a very sad day."

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

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, said 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 on Sky Sports News.

"Graham was a major part of the success the club had in the late 1980s.

"We only really found out he was ill to the level he has been two or three days ago, so it's come as a major shock."

Leatherdale added: "There are fond memories personally and from the club as well.

"He will be a sad loss to the club."

As well as his stints on the England staff, Dilley was a Loughborough MCC Universities coach and helped the likes of Monty Panesar emerge as international class.

MCC head of cricket John Stephenson, the former Essex and Hampshire batsman, got to know Dilley well in their playing days, which overlapped.

Stephenson was also appreciative of Dilley's work as a coach, and said: "I'm extremely sad to hear of Graham's death.

"He was a world-class bowler who I played against many times and he became a very good friend.

"As a coach, he made a huge impact as part of the MCC Universities programme; he was central to the progress made at Loughborough over the last decade and he will be much missed by all of us at the club."