There was one tiny consolation for Ricky Ponting as he walked off a Test field for the last time. He knew he'd made the right decision to retire. In the WACA gym on Thursday, Ponting was asked how tough it was knowing he would not be part of next year's Ashes tour. Not at all, he replied, because he had made up his mind that he was not good enough to get there. A spectacular, match-winning hundred in Perth might have forced a rethink. Few people would have complained.
As it was, Ponting farewelled Test cricket with a brief innings at the WACA, the ground that launched his Test career 17 years ago. It was an emotional 40-minute stay that started with a guard of honour from the South African players and finished with a series of handshakes, the last of which came from the man who had caught him, one of Ponting's few remaining contemporaries from the early stages of his international career, Jacques Kallis.
Then came the moment that will live on forever in the memories of the 7000-strong crowd. As he approached the boundary, Ponting turned around for one last look at Test cricket from the middle. In his right hand he raised his Kookaburra bat, in his left he held up his helmet. The South Africans continued to clap; the standing ovation from the spectators grew louder. Seventeen years of international cricket had come to an end.
But not without a couple of glimpses of vintage Ponting. He began his innings with a nimble jump across his stumps to leave a ball from Morne Morkel and in Morkel's next over got off the mark with a trademark Ricky Ponting pull, forward of square for four. A crisp on-drive provided the rest of Ponting's runs, a boundary off Dale Steyn that beat Morkel at mid-on. Steyn asked some serious questions of Ponting and the batsman was up to every challenge.
In the end, it was left-arm spin, of all things, that ended Ponting's career. Spin at the WACA. With less than five minutes until lunch, Ponting sensed the chance to go to the break with some momentum. He rocked back to Robin Peterson and tried to crunch the ball through the off side. His edge was snapped up by Kallis at first slip. Ponting stood and stared for a moment, processing what had just happened. His Test career was over.
There was some modest celebration from the South Africans, but they appreciated the historical significance. As Ponting walked off, Graeme Smith ran to Ponting to shake his hand, as he had during the earlier guard of honour. Smith's team-mates flocked from all parts to follow his lead. It was fitting that Kallis, in the twilight of a grand career like Ponting, was last.
As Ponting walked off the WACA, his wife Rianna and two daughters, and his parents Graeme and Lorraine, watched on from the stands. He left the field with 13,378 Test runs to his name at an average of 51.85. In his final Test series, he scored 0, 4, 16, 4 and 8. He was content that he had made the right call.
Though never a showman, Ponting has entertained with his skill and his final raise of the bat was a poignant curtain call. It was about Ponting acknowledging what the game had given to him for the past 17 years. It was also about the game giving Ponting, unquestionably one of the modern greats, his due. As he walked off, the WACA scoreboard said it all. Two words, in huge letters, were all that were required. "Thanks Ricky".