Ponting ends first-class career with a flourish

Ricky Ponting was committed to the last. He closed the first class chapter of his career with an unbeaten 169 to earn Surrey a draw against a Nottinghamshire side which was powerless to build on an impressive opening two days

Vithushan Ehantharajah
Surrey 198 (Burns 57, Davies 65*) and 395 for 8 (Ponting 169*, Harinath 69) drew with Nottinghamshire 410 (Mullaney 104, Patel 110, Dernbach 3-84, Tremlett 3-77)
Ricky Ponting was committed to the last. He closed the first class chapter of his career with an unbeaten 169 to earn Surrey a draw against a Nottinghamshire side which was powerless to build on an impressive opening two days. Needing nine wickets, they could only manage seven, as Ponting unfurled a special innings to sign off his long-form career with impeccable class.
He finishes on 24,150 runs - 493 of them coming in his six innings in Surrey whites, including two hundreds and a fifty. Today's hefty unbeaten score gives him an illusory average of 123.25 in this stint, but it wouldn't seem right if a career so illustrious came to end with a dismissal.
That was particularly so when it all ended by him facing the part-time leg spin of Ajmal Shahzad, who resorted to his party trick for the last over of the day before hands were shaken. "There's no worse time to be batting when a part-time bowler comes on," he told ESPNcricinfo, laughing. But after resisting some juicy long hops, that was that.
"First class cricket is over for me," he said. "As much as I enjoy it, I need to look after in my personal life now. It's been nearly 21 years that I've played and a lot of that time has been away from home. I've got a young family and it will be nice to just live a life as a father."
Those that turned up were treated to a display so masterful that at times it seemed Ponting played the day better than the sun itself - guiding Surrey away from dark periods with illuminating boundaries when Nottinghamshire sniffed blood. He was impenetrable in defence and countered with some smart hitting that gave Graeme White and Shahzad (off his long run naturally) cause for self-reflection; the ball thudding off his bat with that signature twang whenever they tried to settle.
He ended immovable, satisfied but, ultimately, disappointed that Surrey come away from yet another Division One game with very little.
"It's nice to finish knowing you can still play," he said, "but unfortunately it wasn't in a winning team. We just haven't grabbed the opportunities we've had. Even at the start of this game, winning the toss on this wicket and getting bowled out for 198 - that was the big moment in this game. We had to bat well in the first innings if we wanted to win and we didn't do that."
There is no doubt that Surrey have developed a great affection for Ponting, who finishes his stay at the end of July before a cameo in the Caribbean Twenty20 and the start of an off-field career with Channel Ten as part of their Big Bash coverage.
Beers were cracked open in honour of their adopted great, before the skipper hammered it home: "It wasn't until Gareth spoke to the boys up there about my career being over that I had the chance to sit back, take my white pads off and put them to one side and think that's the last time I'm going to be wearing them."
Behind the scenes, Ponting has taken it upon himself to imprint his values into the talented and impressionable youth at the club. It's an ingrained stewardship that he says came to him in his final years as an international player, as he looked to bring Australia's next crop through.
He even had half an eye on Ashton Agar's exploits at Trent Bridge, conscious of the 19-year-old's talents having watched him guide Western Australia home against Tasmania in a Sheffield Shield match - a knock Ponting described as "fearless". As Agar notched up a 98 in a similar manner, the former Australian captain couldn't help but smile. "I thought I played pretty well on debut to make 96 and he's ended up making more than me!"
The day started awkwardly, with two Surrey wickets falling in the first hour; Harinath bowled by Harry Gurney, essentially around his legs and Zander de Bruyn's suicidal run out.
When the new ball arrived immediately, Ponting upped the rate but the wicket of Davies brought about a change of tact from the Australian. Only six runs ahead, with five wickets remaining - the last four of which added nothing in the first innings - runs were traded for minutes, and Zafar Ansari batted brilliantly for his 117.
Nottinghamshire had a whiff of victory when Samit Patel removed both Ansari and Gareth Batty in nine balls, before also ending Chris Tremlett's 34-ball stay with some ominous variable bounce. It was no less than Patel's efforts deserved as he displayed commendable appetite and stamina to dig out a win with more than 50 overs of bowling - the vast majority of which were on the money.
But he was no match for Ponting, and that is something a lot of other bowlers have had to accept over the last 20 years. He leaves Surrey staunch in the belief of his teammates and that success in the county championship is a won toss on playful pitch away.
As for the next two days, family time and rest are the order of the day - his long term future in a nutshell.
He recognised as much: "I've spent a lot of time in the middle - these old bones need a little bit of time off," he said.

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