Australia v South Africa, 3rd Test, Perth, 4th day December 3, 2012

An emotional end to Ponting's storied career


There was one tiny consolation for Ricky Ponting as he walked off a Test field for the last time. He knew he'd made the right decision to retire. In the WACA gym on Thursday, Ponting was asked how tough it was knowing he would not be part of next year's Ashes tour. Not at all, he replied, because he had made up his mind that he was not good enough to get there. A spectacular, match-winning hundred in Perth might have forced a rethink. Few people would have complained.

As it was, Ponting farewelled Test cricket with a brief innings at the WACA, the ground that launched his Test career 17 years ago. It was an emotional 40-minute stay that started with a guard of honour from the South African players and finished with a series of handshakes, the last of which came from the man who had caught him, one of Ponting's few remaining contemporaries from the early stages of his international career, Jacques Kallis.

Then came the moment that will live on forever in the memories of the 7000-strong crowd. As he approached the boundary, Ponting turned around for one last look at Test cricket from the middle. In his right hand he raised his Kookaburra bat, in his left he held up his helmet. The South Africans continued to clap; the standing ovation from the spectators grew louder. Seventeen years of international cricket had come to an end.

But not without a couple of glimpses of vintage Ponting. He began his innings with a nimble jump across his stumps to leave a ball from Morne Morkel and in Morkel's next over got off the mark with a trademark Ricky Ponting pull, forward of square for four. A crisp on-drive provided the rest of Ponting's runs, a boundary off Dale Steyn that beat Morkel at mid-on. Steyn asked some serious questions of Ponting and the batsman was up to every challenge.

In the end, it was left-arm spin, of all things, that ended Ponting's career. Spin at the WACA. With less than five minutes until lunch, Ponting sensed the chance to go to the break with some momentum. He rocked back to Robin Peterson and tried to crunch the ball through the off side. His edge was snapped up by Kallis at first slip. Ponting stood and stared for a moment, processing what had just happened. His Test career was over.

There was some modest celebration from the South Africans, but they appreciated the historical significance. As Ponting walked off, Graeme Smith ran to Ponting to shake his hand, as he had during the earlier guard of honour. Smith's team-mates flocked from all parts to follow his lead. It was fitting that Kallis, in the twilight of a grand career like Ponting, was last.

As Ponting walked off the WACA, his wife Rianna and two daughters, and his parents Graeme and Lorraine, watched on from the stands. He left the field with 13,378 Test runs to his name at an average of 51.85. In his final Test series, he scored 0, 4, 16, 4 and 8. He was content that he had made the right call.

Though never a showman, Ponting has entertained with his skill and his final raise of the bat was a poignant curtain call. It was about Ponting acknowledging what the game had given to him for the past 17 years. It was also about the game giving Ponting, unquestionably one of the modern greats, his due. As he walked off, the WACA scoreboard said it all. Two words, in huge letters, were all that were required. "Thanks Ricky".

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mike on December 4, 2012, 9:25 GMT

    One of the least sportsmanlike people ever to have played the game. Typical Australian cricketer

  • Daniel on December 4, 2012, 9:07 GMT

    Ricky, you were both the best batsman in the best team for over 10 years, and you were a credit to cricket and the city of Launceston. We're all gonna miss you.

  • sam on December 4, 2012, 6:44 GMT

    Adieu to 1 n only.......Ricky 'Punter' Ponting !!......LEGEND . Easily among best of modern era ...and in my 15 odd years watching cricket. 1. B C Lara...2. R Ponting... 3. J Kallis....and honorable mention R 'fighter' Dravid ....the rest!!

  • Thyagarajan on December 4, 2012, 6:22 GMT

    People who are comparing Ponting to Sachin have very short memory. Sachin was at his peak when India was a one man team. Sachin scores India scores, Sachin gets out it would be crisis. People talk about his inability to win matches but one has to understand that India was overly dependent on him for a very long time and we cannot win matches by just one man's strength. Yes, he has been struggling for a while now, even when Indian team became stronger his contribution to winning matches were limited but all that I would attribute to the tremendous pressure he was put under (any run, any catch, any wicket he takes the media would be talking about record and record and record). Ponting on the other hand had the good fortune of having a fantastic team mates, Steve/Mark, Hayden, Langer, Gilly, Warne, Mcgrath etc., etc. It was a dream team and he was also performing. When all those great names moved away one by one, Ponting's failures (as captain, as batsman) started showing up.

  • Martin on December 4, 2012, 5:27 GMT

    I really noticed the duality of man in Ricky yesterday. I think sometimes we see the sportsman as being the same as the man off the field. Yes, Ricky was ruthless, and as a Captain, you should accept nothing less. However, yesterday's interview after the match, Ricky spoke to the journalists. I wont quote word for word but, he forgave. Anyone in Australia would recognise the journalists in the print media have spent the better half of a year destroying this person's character and decision making processes, and his response.... all class... "Keep reporting, heep doing what you do and I undertsnad that criticism is part of your job... Thank you!" What a class act to the very end. As for the people who are not sure of his cricketing talent, Im not sure how you can reconcile a player with the 2nd highest of runs scored in the history of the game? His legacy with live on.

  • Dummy4 on December 4, 2012, 4:59 GMT

    We will miss you and that baggy green that you proudly wore. You instilled pride greatness and self-belief in Australian cricket. But great cricketers are never really gone. In this age of technology we will watch you over and over again. And we may even see you from time to time in the commentary boxes. Yes, you are one of the greats, a cricketer and a gentleman. We should be happy because you will get more time to spend with your little girls as you explain the nuances of the game to them. And that is as every bit as important as you occupying the middle and scoring a big hundred! Thanks for the memories and God speed.

  • Anver on December 4, 2012, 3:51 GMT

    Adios & thanks for 17 years of entertainment Ricky !!!!!!! Your pet "PULL SHOT" will be remembered forever & will be missed in this modern era......... wish you a happy retirement from cricket !!!!!

  • Dummy4 on December 4, 2012, 3:41 GMT

    Punter, you are my idol cricketer. I love your batting style. You gave me so much enjoyment in my life. Cricket is my dream after religion. Punter is always a great influence to my daily life. When I get time, I watch cricket and cricket of Aussies is my fun. I hope he will be coach to our Bangladesh team after couple of years. He is a true gentleman. We are keen to take the service of this great cricketer. May God keep Punter in good health. Congratulation to a great cricketer in modern era.

  • Pratyush on December 4, 2012, 3:32 GMT

    Brilliant sportsmanship from the Proteas. Their gesture was so fitting, to one of the Greats of the Game. We would all miss him. I hope we, Indians learn a thing or two from the way these two teams play but most of all, respect.

  • bramhdeo on December 4, 2012, 2:27 GMT

    thanks RICKY you contribution to cricket will be everlasting

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