The South Africa fast bowler, Andre Nel, has announced his retirement from international cricket. Nel, 31, played his final Test match against England at The Oval last August and has finished with 123 wickets at 31.86.

Nel, who said he was retiring with "a heavy heart," said: "Playing for my country for the last eight years was a dream come true for me. I would like to thank my captain, Graeme Smith, and my coaches, Mickey Arthur and Vinnie Barnes, and all my team-mates for their support and guidance.

"I have many happy memories and wish the Proteas the best for the future. I would also like to thank Cricket South Africa and Gerald Majola for the support I have been given," he said. "To the fans who have supported me, you have made playing at the highest level something very special for me. I am sorry I did not have the chance to say farewell from the field.

"Last, but not least, a special thanks to my two biggest mentors, Ray Jennings and Shaun Pollock. Without your advice and influence I would not have made it as far as I did."

Nel, a rambunctious and wholehearted cricketer, was often in hot water with the officials when his passion sometimes spilled over into dissent. He took five wickets in an innings on three occasions, the best of which came in 2005 when his 6 for 32 blew West Indies away for just 166.

Almost exactly 12 months ago, he was rumoured to be quitting international cricket over the controversial transformation policy - the quota selection which has divided opinion in South African sport. Nel was said to be "devastated" at being left out of South Africa's squad to tour India in 2008, though he later featured for them on their successful trip of England and seized his chance with typical gusto.

"He has been a good servant to South African cricket and I wish him all the best," Gerald Majola, Cricket South Africa's chief executive, said while the coach, Mickey Arthur, termed him "a very passionate player who always gave 110 percent for his country".

Nel has enjoyed stints with Essex and will now join Surrey on a three-year deal.