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Cricket world in farewell to Hughes

Cricket stars from around the world joined relatives and friends to celebrate the life of Phillip Hughes amid the grief and sorrow still evident from his death.

Rising star Hughes, 25, tipped to be one of the game's greats, died last Thursday after being hit near an ear by a ball during a match at Sydney Cricket Ground.

Australia's cricket captain Michael Clarke and the rest of the test squad gathered at Hughes' funeral at his home town of Macksville on the northern coast of New South Wales state, 350 miles north of Sydney.

Clarke was a pallbearer and speaker at the funeral service at the Macksville Recreation Centre and which opened to the song Forever Young by Youth Group and c losed by Elton John's Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me - the same song the entertainer and avid cricket fan performed at a concert last weekend in Germany in a tribute to Hughes.

In steaming temperatures of nearly 30 Celsius (85F) early arrivals to the service, including Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, fanned themselves with papers. Most of those who wore sports jackets and blazers had taken them off, some with shirtsleeves rolled up to their elbows.

Hughes' coffin was at the front of the hall, near the altar for the Roman Catholic service, surrounded by flowers and cricket bats, one with his test cap on the handle.

The funeral was broadcast live around Australia on commercial television stations and on video screens at the Adelaide Oval, where the rescheduled first test with India will start next Tuesday, and the SCG, where a row of 63 bats were propped up against pickets, each with an inscription of a special moment of Hughes' career.

Macksville residents gathered in a park near the funeral for a telecast and owners of many shops and businesses shut down to attend the funeral.

Among those to send their condolence messages was West Indies great Viv Richards, who posted on Twitter: "My heart goes out to the family, friends & the people of Macksville honouring their favourite son Phillip today. Viv."

Commemoration ceremonies for Hughes were held in Rome, where the Vatican's cricket team held a memorial Mass. Vatican team captain the Rev Anthony Currer presided over the service at the Venerable English College, a seminary in Rome.

He said the team wanted to show its closeness to Hughes' family "bringing his life before God and bring it to our prayer".

Leading the service, which included a video tribute, Father Michael Alcock remembered the batsman as a "shining light".

"In his short time he walked as a child of the light, not in an ostentatious way but in a natural, unassuming and passionate way," he said.

Clarke, who has described Hughes as the brother he never had, broke down frequently last weekend at the SCG when he first commented on his close friend's death.

Today he took several deep breaths before he began his remarks at the funeral, saying Hughes would "definitely call me a sook right now".

"I don't know about you, but I keep looking for him," Clarke said. "I want to see his face pop up around the corner.

"I can see how he has touched so many people around the world ... so rest in peace my little brother, see you out in the middle."

The funeral was broadcast live around Australia on commercial television stations and on video screens at the Adelaide Oval, where the rescheduled first test with India will start next Tuesday, and the SCG, where a row of 63 bats were propped up against pickets, each with an inscription of a special moment of Hughes' career.

Hughes' cousin Nino Ramunno spoke at length about Hughes' youth in Macksville as a keen, budding cricketer - one, who, if he lost a toss to determine who bats at the beginning of a match, kept suggesting it would be a best of three, five, or seven, or longer, until he won it.

Mr Ramunno ended his remarks with a saying he said he received from a family friend, in reference to Hughes: "He who lives in the hearts of so many, never dies."

Hughes' family had asked for his hearse to go through the town's streets to give locals a chance to take part in the service. The procession, which lasted just over half a mile, ended in the town centre, where the hearse took Hughes' coffin to a private service and Australia's cricketers and Hughes' family and friends were holding a wake.

India's stand-in captain Virat Kohli, team director Ravi Shastri and former Australian wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist walked down the aisle together, part of a large group following the coffin out of the hall.

Sean Abbott, the 22-year-old who bowled the delivery which fatally injured Hughes, was at the funeral. He was consoled by members of Hughes' family, and Clarke said earlier he should not be held responsible.

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