Five miserable Test farewells

As Vernon Philander's Test career draws to a quiet close, we list a few other underwhelming exits

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Graham Gooch is caught and bowled by Craig McDermott in his final Test innings, Australia v England, 5th Test, Perth, 4th day, February 6, 1995

Graham Gooch is caught and bowled by Craig McDermott in his final Test innings  •  Getty Images

As South Africa slipped towards defeat in Johannesburg, Vernon Philander's 64-Test career came to an underwhelming end: a hamstring strain suffered while bowling in the second innings, scores of 4 and 10 with the bat, plus a fine from the match referee. Here we look back at a few other farewells that didn't go to plan...

Age was barely even a number where Graham Gooch was concerned. His Test career began in earnest after the age of 36 - from 1990 onwards, he averaged 51.55 in 45 Tests , compared to 36.90 in his first 73. And having pumped New Zealand for a double-century at Trent Bridge in June 1994, a month shy of his 42nd birthday, there seemed no reason to assume the end was nigh. But Australia tours have a habit of exposing the gently decrepit, and despite sporting a particularly perky moustache - probably the most upbeat iteration of an otherwise hangdog career - his inability to push on past a top-score of 56 in the first four Tests persuaded him that the end was nigh. So he called time on the eve of the series finale at the WACA, and was soon made to look a man out of time. His final innings was particularly painful - a 12-ball turkey shoot in which he might have been out three times, before finally drilling a return catch into Craig McDermott's shoulder, and then the bowler's hands as he tumbled in pain to the turf.

As a legspinner who spent most of his career in Shane Warne's shadow, Stuart MacGill held his own better than most of Australia's opponents - in fact, in the 16 matches they played as a spin pairing, he outdid the senior man by 82 wickets at 22.10 to 74 at 29.56. But by the time the stage was all his own, following Warne's retirement at the end of the 2006-07 Ashes, MacGill was himself 36, and starting to feel it too. On the second morning of the Antigua Test in May 2008, he arrived at the ground after the start of play, having been out for dinner the night before. "I was sleeping, missed the bus and was late for work," he said. "It would be cooler if I had a better story." A subsequent slip in the outfield, and the creak in his joints as he got back to his feet, persuaded MacGill that he "didn't want to embarrass himself anymore" and he announced his retirement with immediate effect, and with final Test figures of 1 for 182. The sympathy vote wasn't enough to prevent the tour management from fining him for his tardiness.

Don Bradman, The Oval 1948

The daddy of all disappointing send-offs - although, on the up side, that legendary final Test average, 99.94, is far more evocative than a dull and rounded 100.00. And besides, Don Bradman's final moment of fallibility at The Oval has meant that future generations have had something to aim for, for 72 years and counting. Had the Don been a modern media-trained drone, he would doubtless have uttered something banal at the post-match presentations, along the lines of: "Obviously I was gutted on a personal level, but I'd trade those four runs for an innings-and-149-run win over the Poms and a 4-0 series win any day of the week". Except, given that he had a voracious run-harvesting appetite that makes Jacques Kallis look flighty, we can hazard a guess that his mood might not have been quite so upbeat. John Arlott's commentary was as flummoxed as Bradman's off-balance stab at the googly. "He's bowled! Bradman, bowled Hollies, nought. What do you say under those circumstances?" Something that, in this day and age, would earn you a demerit point, probably.

Like trying to ignore the elephant in the room, it was optimistic of the PCB to think that a man of the physical and statistical stature of Inzamam-ul-Haq could be quietly put out to pasture in the wake of Pakistan's disaster at the 2007 World Cup. Besides the emotional attachment that the country still felt to their gentle giant, there was the small matter of a very impending landmark. With 8,813 runs in 119 Tests, Inzamam was just 20 runs shy of overhauling Javed Miandad as Pakistan's leading run-scorer, and the clamour for his recall was too great to ignore - especially when an Inzy-less Pakistan lost the first Test against South Africa (or more specifically to Kallis) at Karachi. So back Inzy came for a one-off farewell against South Africa at Lahore - with all the associated hoopla that entailed. The South Africans, understandably, suggested that his recall would be a distraction … but no one seemed more distracted than the man himself. After ticking off 13 runs in the first innings, he arrived second-time around with time running out in a nigh-on-impossible run-chase, but decided to have a dart all the same. A first-ball clip for three brought the record within range, but a second-ball swipe at Paul Harris brought the show to an anticlimactic end.

Allan Donald, Johannesburg 2002

At the age of 35, and with a then-South Africa-record 330 wickets to his name, Allan Donald's spirit was still willing but his body was increasingly weak. And at the turn of the 2000s, there was no side in the world more likely to expose widening cracks than Steve Waugh's Australians. Towards the end of the first day of the series at the Wanderers, Donald's thunderous career came to a sudden and very terminal halt as he pulled up in his 16th over with a hamstring strain. He hardly needed the say-so of physio Craig Smith to confirm that it was all over, but the fact that both men left the pitch in tears spoke volumes. In the absence of their attack leader, South Africa were subjected to a beating the like of which they had never before felt. By the end of Australia's solitary innings of 652 for 7 declared, Adam Gilchrist was taking pot-shots at a billboard promising 1 million rand for any batsman who hit it. He missed a couple by a whisker, en route to a career-best 204 not out, and victory by a whopping innings and 360 runs. "Gilchrist was playing with them like a cat keeping a half-dead mouse alive for entertainment," wrote Wisden .

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @miller_cricket