The quiet goodbyes
Possibly cricket's most famous anticlimax came at The Oval in 1948, when Don Bradman went out to bat for what, in all probability, was his last Test innings (England had just been skittled for 52, so an Australian second innings already seemed unlikely). Bradman needed only four runs to cement a Test average of 100, but was bowled by his second ball, from the Warwickshire legspinner Eric Hollies. The Don was left with an average of 99.94 - which ironically over the years has become even more famous than if he'd managed three figures.
West Indies' first great batsman was so good he was dubbed "the black Bradman" by some. And before the Second World War he lived up to that, averaging 66.71 and carrying his side's batting on his shoulders, to the extent that "Atlas" was another nickname. But after the war, ageing and prone to injury, Headley managed only three further Tests, the last of them at home in Jamaica in 1953-54, when he twice fell cheaply to the England spinner Tony Lock, who was also called for throwing during the match.
The Test career of the popular Australian opener Keith Stackpole came to a quiet end in New Zealand in 1973-74, with a pair in Auckland. That included being out to the first ball of the match, a high full-toss from Richard Hadlee: "I only saw it a yard away from my head," wrote Stacky. "I pulled out of the way, but the ball flicked the end of the bat and flew to first slip. Maybe it was the first time in Test cricket that a fellow was out first ball without the ball ever touching the ground!"
Aged 38, Rahul Dravid was India's batting star as they slipped to a disappointing 4-0 defeat in England in 2011. He made three centuries, including one while carrying his bat at The Oval. He was tempted to call it a day then... but there was still a job to do in Australia. Sadly, conditions there were less to his liking, and Dravid managed a solitary fifty - and four scores of ten and under - as another embarrassing whitewash loomed. One of the longest and most successful of Test careers had come to a quiet end.
WG Grace almost invented the modern game of cricket: he was the first batsman to play forward and back with equal assurance, in the way which is familiar even now. He rewrote the record books, too. But by 1899 he was 50, and somewhat thicker around the waist than before. After the first match of that year's Ashes series, in which he scored 28 and 1, Grace stepped down, mainly because the ground was getting a bit too far away and showing up his fielding. "It's all over, Jacker," he told his team-mate Stanley Jackson mournfully, "I shan't play again."
He was probably Australia's best batsman since Bradman, but eventually time caught up with Ricky Ponting. A glittering international career came to a subdued end in 2012-13 in the home series against South Africa - only 32 runs in five innings, including a rather sad double of 4 and 8 in Perth in the final Test after announcing his retirement. Ponting still finished with a Test average nudging 52.
No one except his nearest and dearest knew Andrew Strauss was going to call it a day after the 2012 Lord's Test against South Africa - his 100th Test match, and 50th as captain. It wasn't quite the perfect ending, though, out cheaply twice as England slipped to defeat in the match and the series, and surrendered their hard-earned No. 1 Test ranking.
Just possibly the fastest bowler who ever lived, Jeff Thomson terrorised batsmen - particularly Poms - in the 1970s. By 1985, though, he had slowed down a bit, and was a late call-up for the 1985 Ashes series after some original choices defected to a rebel tour of South Africa. Late-era Thommo was not so scary: he played only in the first Test (2 for 166 and 0 for 8) and the fifth (1 for 101), and is probably best-remembered for flicking a V-sign at the crowd during that final match at Edgbaston. Still, his wicket there gave him exactly 200 in Tests, 100 of them against England.
The long international career of Javed Miandad, which started as a teenager in the inaugural World Cup in 1975, ended in the sixth World Cup in 1996, with a quarter-final defeat to arch-rivals India in Bangalore. Frustrated at batting out of position at No. 6 (and probably even more frustrated at the dying of the light), Miandad scrapped his way to 38 before his run-out virtually sealed the game for India. He walked off with more than 16,000 international runs, and a Test average above 52.
One of India's finest fast bowlers, Javagal Srinath finished up with more than 550 wickets in international cricket. What turned out to be his last match was the 2003 World Cup final - but even the genial Srinath was hard-pressed to crack a smile as Australia ran amok in Johannesburg. They made 359 for 2 - Ricky Ponting 140 not out - and Srinath's ten overs disappeared for 87.
Best remembered now as the man who took the catch that ended the 2005 Edgbaston epic, Geraint Jones had a solid career for England, and was an automatic choice between his debut in the West Indies in 2003-04 and the start of the 2006-07 Ashes tour. The vultures were hovering, though, as England slipped to defeat after defeat with Jones contributing little with the bat. Before the third Test, his 34th, Jones had never been out for a duck in 51 innings: but in Perth he bagged a pair. And then he was dropped, and never played again.
Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2013