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Former England captain Ray Illingworth dies aged 89

Yorkshire and England legend passes away after long battle with esophageal cancer

Ray Illingworth was England's supremo in the mid-1990s, Headingley, June 7, 1995

Ray Illingworth was England's supremo in the mid-1990s  •  Getty Images

Ray Illingworth, England's Ashes-winning former captain, head coach and chair of selectors, has died at the age of 89, following a battle with esophageal cancer.
As an offspinning allrounder, Illingworth's professional career spanned a remarkable 32 years, from his debut for Yorkshire in 1951 aged 19, via a decade at Leicestershire from 1969 to 1978, and ultimately to his final trophy-winning season as Yorkshire captain in 1983, when he guided the club to the Sunday League at the age of 51.
In between whiles, he represented England in 61 Tests between 1958 and 1973, most memorably on the triumphant tour of Australia in 1970-71, where he led his side to a 2-0 series win in an uncompromising campaign that spanned seven scheduled Tests as well as the sport's first ODI, in Melbourne in January 1971.
After retirement, Illingworth remained a pivotal figure in English cricket, first as an uncompromising pundit on the BBC's TV coverage, before rising to become national "supremo" in the mid-1990s, a position of unrivalled authority in which he served as coach and national selector.
"We are deeply saddened to learn that Ray Illingworth has passed away," wrote Yorkshire County Cricket Club on Twitter. "Our thoughts are with Ray's family and the wider Yorkshire family who held Ray so dear to their hearts."
Aside from the tactical acumen with which he forged his reputation as a captain, Illingworth was a fine player in his own right, completing the 1000-run/100-wicket double in Test cricket, and finishing with 1,836 runs at 23.24 and 122 wickets at 31.20.
Overall, he amassed 24,134 first-class runs and 2,072 wickets, and led Yorkshire to three successive County Championship victories from 1966 to 1968.
ECB chief executive officer Tom Harrison said: "It's always incredibly sad to lose a person who has given so much to the English game, and to the sport of cricket in general.
"Ray was a superb cricketer, and his deep love, passion and knowledge for the game meant he continued to contribute long after his playing days had finished. We send our sympathy and warmest wishes to Ray's friends and family at this difficult time."
In his final interview last month, Illingworth revealed his cancer diagnosis, and called for assisted dying to be legalised in the UK after witnessing the way his wife Shirley had suffered from the same disease.
"I don't want to have the last 12 months that my wife had," Illingworth told the Telegraph. "She had a terrible time going from hospital to hospital and in pain. I don't want that. I would rather go peacefully. I believe in assisted dying. The way my wife was, there was no pleasure in life in the last 12 months and I don't see the point of living like that, to be honest."