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Fans throng cricket stadia across Australia to bid Hughes farewell

Last updated on: December 03, 2014 14:55 IST
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Mourners pay their respects as people gather to watch the funeral service held in Macksville for Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes at the Sydney Cricket Ground

Mourners pay their respects as people gather at the Sydney Cricket Ground to watch the funeral service of Australia batsman Phillip Hughes on Wednesday.

Cricket fans gathered across Australia on Wednesday to mourn the death of batsman Phillip Hughes, a show of support described by Michael Clarke as the "spirit of cricket that binds us all together" in a eulogy to his close friend.

While Clarke was speaking at the funeral in Hughes's hometown of Macksville, thousands of fans braved the heat at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), the Adelaide Oval, the Gabba and the WACA to express their grief.

Despite blanket live coverage of the funeral on local television and international news networks like the BBC and CNN, many of those present at Australia's iconic cricket venues travelled hundreds of kilometres to remember Hughes.

People gather to watch the funeral service for Phillip Hughes at the Sydney Cricket Ground

People gather to watch the funeral service for Phillip Hughes at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

"As a fan of cricket, I felt obligated," said Ken Johnson from St George, who spoke to Reuters at the SCG, just metres from where Hughes suffered the fatal blow to the head from a bouncer during a state match last Tuesday.

At the SCG, the many cricket bats and floral tributes that had been laid outside the gates since Hughes died last Thursday had been brought into the ground and arranged on the wicket.

There was also an installation of 63 bats across the field, each one with the description of a milestone from the batsman's career, in a reference to the tally, 63 not out, that was on the SCG scoreboard when he was injured.

Former Australian cricketer Nathan Bracken awaits the funeral service for Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes at the Sydney Cricket Ground

Former Australia cricketer Nathan Bracken awaits the funeral service for Phillip Hughes at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

In a country where sportsmen and women are idolised, Hughes had already secured his hero status with his exploits in 26 Tests for the national team.

It was, though, his fighting attitude -- encapsulated by his desire to reclaim his spot in the Australia Test team after being dropped several times -- that meant he was remembered so fondly by many of the hundreds of mourners at the SGC.

"A lot of people when they go down give it away but he just kept on coming back. I just loved his style, his ability to bat was unbelievable," said Simon Southwell, who travelled with his family from Canberra to Sydney.

A woman reacts during the funeral service for Phillip Hughes

A woman reacts during the funeral service for Phillip Hughes.

Some 3,000 fans also turned out at the Adelaide Oval, where Hughes played his state cricket with South Australia since moving from New South Wales two years ago.

The tributes that have flooded in from around the world over the last week continued on Wednesday, making the mourning a truly international affair.

"Heart-rending funeral in Australia. Phil Hughes, we will miss you. Your game & exuberance won you fans all over! RIP," Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.

People lay flowers at the Randwick End of the SCG prior to the gathering of people to watch the funeral service of Phillip Hughes

People lay flowers at the Randwick End of the SCG prior to the gathering of people to watch the funeral service of Phillip Hughes. Photograph: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

International media publications also followed the funeral proceedings.

The Daily Telegraph reported that a "steady stream of mourners" filled up the turf and paid their last respects.

"...a makeshift shrine set up at the Randwick End of the pitch. It marks the fateful spot where Phillip Hughes lost his life playing the game he loved. Sets of stumps are set up at either end --hauntingly with one bail lying on the ground next to them," the newspaper reported.

63 cricket bats with Phillip Hughes's milestones are displayed on the SCG as people gather to watch the funeral service held in Macksville

63 cricket bats with Phillip Hughes's milestones are displayed on the SCG as people gather to watch the funeral service held in Macksville.

"Some 63 cricket bats stretch from deep backward point to the entry of the Members Stand -- a poignant nod to Phillip Hughes's final not out score."

The bats were inscribed with messages like "Cheeky chappie" and "top man" among others.

The inscription on the final bat read, "Phillip, you've left us but you'll never leave our memories –particularly here at the SCG."

Photographs: Getty Images

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