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    After an emotional century, Gareth Roderick pays tribute to Josh Baker
After an emotional century, Gareth Roderick pays tribute to Josh Baker
Gareth Roderick points to Josh Baker's No. 33 after reaching his hundred. Source: Getty Images

After an emotional century, Gareth Roderick pays tribute to Josh Baker

Gareth Roderick said he felt the spirit of Josh Baker inspiring him as he hit a first-day hundred against Kent at Canterbury in Worcestershire's return to cricket after the teammate's tragic death last week aged just 20.

Roderick, who opened the batting and scored 117 in Worcestershire's final total of 308 for 5, marked the moment of his century with a tap of Baker's squad number, 33, which has been embroidered on the team's shirts for the rest of the season, and a glance to the heavens before saluting the 1000-strong crowd that had gathered at the St Lawrence Ground on one of the warmest days of the season so far.

With the flags above the Frank Woolley Pavilion flying at half-mast, the two teams had lined up on the boundary before the start of play for a moment of reflection and a minute's applause, a gesture that Roderick admitted affected him deeply as he walked out to begin his innings.

He said as he finished:

"It's been a very emotional day. Obviously, the boys are devastated at what's happened, but we've pulled together as a group and that was a lovely ovation for him today in his memory. I think it affected the boys quite deeply and we're quite moved. We certainly felt his presence with us today.”

Worcestershire have not yet confirmed the circumstances of Baker's death, which occurred at his home just hours after he took three wickets in a Second XI match against Somerset at Bromsgrove School, which was abandoned on the final afternoon.

Worcestershire did not play in last week's round of County Championship matches, but when the grieving players returned to training on Tuesday, five days after the incident, they were subjected to a scheduled round of random testing by Ukad, the national anti-doping authority - a development unrelated to Baker's death and denounced as "at best insensitive and at worst incompetent" by the chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association.

Roderick, however, channeled all the agony of the week into a brave innings of 281 balls and five fours, built around two key stands of 136 with Kashif Ali and 102 with Adam Hose, which only ended deep in the evening session when Joey Evison plucked out his off stump.

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