Sydney: A "minuscule misjudgement" by Australian batsman Phillip Hughes when facing a bouncer led to his death, a coroner ruled Friday, saying neither the bowler nor anyone else was to blame for the tragedy.
Hughes, who played 26 Tests, died from bleeding on the brain in November 2014 after being hit on the neck by a rising ball while batting in a domestic match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The death of the popular 25-year-old, who had risen through the ranks to play for his country, stunned Australia and the world cricket community, sparking an outpouring of grief.
"A minuscule misjudgement or a slight error of execution caused him to miss the ball which crashed into his neck with fatal consequences," said New South Wales coroner Michael Barnes in long-awaited findings.
"There was no suggestion the ball was bowled with malicious intent. Neither the bowler nor anyone else was to blame for the tragic outcome."
Barnes added that his death would not have been prevented even if he was wearing more modern head protection, and that a quicker medical response would have made no difference to the "unsurvivable" injuries.
"Phillip wasn`t wearing the most up to date safety helmet when he was struck and the rules that then applied didn`t require him to do so," he said.
"However, had he even been wearing that most modern equipment then available, it would not have protected the area of his body where the fatal blow landed."
Concerns had been raised during the inquest by Hughes` family about on-field sledging, including threats against him, and the amount of short, fast deliveries he faced which they felt the umpires could have stopped.
But Barnes said neither affected Hughes` composure and he was comfortably dealing with the short-pitched balls "because of his very high level of skill and competence".
"I conclude no failure to enforce the laws of the game contributed to his death," he said.
After Hughes was hit, fellow cricketers and medical staff raced to help him but the first person to call for an ambulance was unaware of the severity of the injury and it took about an hour to get him to hospital.
Despite this, Barnes commended the response as "to the best of their abilities".