September 2, 2003

Kirsten postpones retirement

Wisden CricInfo staff

Gary Kirsten has gone back on his plan to retire from international cricket, and now insists that Thursday's fifth Test against England at The Oval will not be his swansong.

Kirsten had expected to retire after this tour, but after his matchwinning performances at Headingley last week he has now set his sights on scoring 20 Test hundreds, as well as becoming the first South African to play 100 Tests. But, he insisted, his motivation for continuing was not purely statistical.

"I didn't want to leave with the possibility of any regrets, the thought that maybe I could have played for another four or five months and reached 100 Tests," Kirsten told the BBC. "Another famous milestone is 20 hundreds, but those targets are not the only reason I'm carrying on.

"I've thoroughly enjoyed this tour," he added. "Being in good form helps, but the set-up is tremendous and the guys have worked superbly together. I just couldn't help thinking how nice it would be to be a part of it all for a bit longer. I still feel physically good, although I know I'm pushing time. But as long as I'm worth my place and the guys still want me, I'll be here for a couple more matches."

Kirsten's painstaking innings of 130 and 60 set up South Africa's 191-run victory in the fourth Test at Headingley, and prompted a rethink of his future. "I did say this would be my last summer of international cricket," he admitted. "But the guys have put some heat on me."

Kirsten, 35, has played in 92 Tests to date, and at this rate he is scheduled to reach his century at Centurion next January, at the climax of South Africa's home series against West Indies.