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Neil McKenzie retires from first-class cricket

Neil McKenzie made a hundred in his first appearance of the season Getty Images

Neil McKenzie, 39, has retired from first-class cricket after scoring an unbeaten double-hundred to help Lions defeat Warriors and take the Sunfoil title in Johannesburg on Sunday.

McKenzie scored 19,041 runs from 280 matches at an average of 45.77, including 53 hundreds and 86 fifties since his debut in 1994-95. He also represented South Africa in 58 Tests, 64 ODIs and two T20Is.

Having begun his international career in the middle-order, he remodelled himself as an opener in later years. Along with Graeme Smith, he broke a Test record that had stood for 52 years when they added 415 runs for the first wicket against Bangladesh in February 2008.

The Durban Test against Australia in 2009 was the last time McKenzie played for South Africa. He continued to be a mainstay for Lions though, a side he has represented nearly throughout his domestic career. This season, too, he played for them across formats and ended up their second-highest run-getter in the Sunfoil series with 690 from 11 innings including three centuries.

"He's had a great career - he's a legend of the game and a good man," said Lions coach Geoffrey Toyana after McKenzie helped end a 15-year four-day trophy drought. "I'm lost for words because I've got a lump in my throat to be honest."

"Honoured to have played in this man's last first-class game! Absolute legend of a human!" team-mate Chris Morris posted on Instagram.

Throughout his career, McKenzie was known as much for his superstitious quirks as his batting. He was known to strap his bats to the ceiling and ensuring that all the toilet seats were down when he went out to bat. Steve Waugh wrote in his autobiography Out of my comfort zone how McKenzie would avoid stepping on the tramlines of the crease while walking between overs.

"Us cricketers, we can be funny people," McKenzie tried to make sense of his idiosyncrasies in an interview in 2012. We try and control the uncontrollable. In the game, things can be unpredictable so I tried to make them predictable. I think that's why I did it."

McKenzie, whose father Kevin played first-class cricket as well, had hinted in the interview that coaching was a possible career option once he was finished with playing.