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February 12, 2008
Matthew Elliott, the opening batsman who was a regular member of Australia's Test team during the late 1990s, has announced his retirement from first-class cricket in Australia. Elliott, 36, follows his South Australia team-mate Darren Lehmann in quitting the game and he said it was time the state's younger players were given a chance to establish themselves.
Wednesday's one-day match against Tasmania at Adelaide Oval will be his final appearance unless the third-placed Redbacks secure a spot in the FR Cup decider. "After much thought and many discussions I'm convinced the timing is right," Elliott said.
"It has to be about the team and what is right for the team now, it's not for an old boy like me to battle out the rest of the season. Retiring now will give the younger players in the Redbacks squad the same opportunity that I was afforded early in my career."
Elliott's first-class form waned in recent years and he did not make a Pura Cup century in the three seasons since he moved to South Australia. However, he remained a formidable one-day player and is the leading run scorer in the FR Cup this season following an equally impressive 2006-07, in which he was named the tournament's Player of the Year.
That limited-overs form has made him a target of the Indian Cricket League (ICL) and Elliott said he was considering an offer to take part in the Twenty20 tournament. He is weighing up how the opportunity would affect his university studies; he is doing a course in construction management in Adelaide. "I'm thinking about it," Elliott said of the ICL offer. "It's more about what's best for me after my cricket career."
At his peak while opening for Victoria, Elliott was one of the most dangerous batsmen in Australia. He managed 21 Tests, although at the highest level he never quite lived up to his potential and had to settle for 1172 runs at 33.48. A naturally reserved character, Elliott reportedly had trouble fitting into the Australian dressing-room culture and he also had problems on the field.
His second Test, against West Indies in Sydney in 1996-97, looked like becoming memorable as he worked his way to 78 and he was within sight of a maiden century when the game suddenly turned unforgettable for other reasons. A mid-pitch collision with his partner Mark Waugh left Elliott sprawled on the ground with torn knee cartilage and he did not play another Test for two months.
Elliott's first century came at Lord's on the 1997 Ashes tour and he followed with 199, which would remain his highest Test score, at Headingley. Those innings, at the age of 25, established him as an excellent hooker and driver and earned him the honour of being named a Wisden Cricketer of the Year.
However, that tour was his career pinnacle and he ended up on the sidelines following a string of low scores. An unsuccessful recall came for the tour of West Indies in March 1999 and his only appearance after that was a one-off chance against Sri Lanka in Darwin in 2004, when he was surprisingly called up at the age of 32 to replace Ricky Ponting at No. 3. He managed only one run from the two innings and his international career was over.
Elliott remained a force at state level, and the summer before his 2004 comeback he had registered what was then an all-time record of 1381 Pura Cup runs at 81.23, with seven centuries. Most of his 17,251 first-class runs came at Victoria, or during his county stints at Glamorgan and Yorkshire, before he switched to South Australia in 2005-06 and reinvented himself as a damaging one-day opener.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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