HUNDREDS of people gathered to say farewell to a talented young Worcestershire cricketer as he was laid to rest in a poignant funeral service which celebrated his life.

Josh Baker's coffin was draped in the flag of Worcestershire County Cricket Club as it was carried into the chapel at Redditch Crematorium for the service at 12.30pm today (Monday).

There were so many people at the service for the 20-year-old spin bowler, who had played at the club since his professional debut in 2021, that many had to stand or pay their respects outside or by watching the service over a livestream.

Mr Baker died at home on May 2 with the cause of his death yet to be made public.

Worcester News: MISSED: Josh Baker who died aged 20 when a rising star for Worcestershire County Cricket Club MISSED: Josh Baker who died aged 20 when a rising star for Worcestershire County Cricket Club (Image: Worcestershire County Cricket Club)

Celebrant Chris Stuart said: "His family were really clear they did not want this to be a sad or gloomy affair but a chance to celebrate Josh's life and the blessings it brought. He was, quite simply, a lovely man."

He later said: "His life has been a precious gift."

Josh was described in the service as 'a man of many gifts' and, although singing was not one of them (although he still enjoyed singing) the songs chosen reflected the breadth of his musical taste. 

People at the service were invited to join in singing the first song - Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver. 

"I bet you've never done karaoke at a funeral - now is your chance," said the celebrant.

Worcester News: LOVED: People gathered in their hundreds to pay their respects to Josh Baker LOVED: People gathered in their hundreds to pay their respects to Josh Baker (Image: SWNS)

Josh was described as quite shy and retiring as a boy growing up in his native Redditch but with an aptitude for sport, joining Astwood Bank Cricket Club at the age of seven.

He later attended Malvern College on a scholarship when he was 13 where he 'came out of himself' and 'blossomed'. 

Alan Richardson, head coach for Worcestershire County Cricket Club, described Josh as having 'a real sparkle in his eye' and 'the harder the challenge, the more he relished it.'

As a player he was noted for his 'quiet self-belief' and 'doggedness', for his understated quality and for being 'talented, competitive' and 'very, very funny'. 

He was honest about his type 1 diabetes diagnosis, which he received at the age of just 13, letting other young people know it had never held him back to inspire others to follow their dreams.

Worcester News: TALENT: Josh Baker was a talented spin bowler and 'lovely man' TALENT: Josh Baker was a talented spin bowler and 'lovely man' (Image: SWNS)

His parents, Lisa and Paul, said: "Josh was literally our world, being our only much-loved child. We are so proud of everything he did."

They said he had a 'fantastic sense of humour, apart from first thing in the morning'.

Josh turned professional with Worcestershire in 2021, playing 47 times for the club and twice being capped by England at under-19 level.

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He took 70 wickets across all three formats,  scored 525 runs and signed a three-year contract with his home county last year.

His teammates wore his number, 33, on their shirts 'near their hearts' in his honour for the rest of the season. Josh also played for Northern District Cricket Club in Australia.

His parents described how he always played golf and during one 'errant drive' he lost his temper and threw his driver over a hedge and that went further than the ball had.

Josh's grandparents shared memories of him as a boy listening to his grandfather read stories, watching Dad's Army, playing with Lego, playing tennis and cricket and going for walks.

Other songs played included Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers' Islands in the Stream.

Photos of him growing up were also shown during the service and tributes were also read out from other family members including his uncles, friends and other cricketers.

One of the tributes described how, as a boy of about 10, Josh saw a homeless man and, with tears in his eyes, asked: "Can we help him? It was the epitome of who you were then - and who you became."

There was a round of applause towards the end of the service as the celebrant described Josh as 'deeply loved' and 'loved beyond measure'. 

"Fly high now Josh, fly high," he said.

The final song was Waterloo by ABBA as people left the chapel.

In memory of Josh, his family has launched a JustGiving page to support Diabetes UK and the British Heart Foundation which has already raised £5,000.