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Ricky Ponting had a run of poor scores towards the end of his illustrious Test career. Reuters
Ricky Ponting had a run of poor scores towards the end of his illustrious Test career. Reuters

A tame end to Ricky Ponting's Test career

Five-day cricket's second-highest run scorer was given the ovation he deserved but was not even given a fifth day.

His final innings was ushered in by a guard of honour from the South African players as he strode to the crease, and his last departure from the arena as a Test player was on the shoulders of his Australian teammates.

Those were the unforgettable moments for Ricky Ponting from his 168th and last Test. One thing he would like to forget his scores.

He was out for 8 in his last innings and Australia were comprehensively outplayed in a 309-run defeat by Graeme Smith's South Africans, who extended their lead in the Test rankings with the victory.

"I just felt there was one last push from me. The game and the day was set up for it, but it didn't last long enough," said Ponting, who equalled Steve Waugh's Australian record for most Test caps and finished as the second-highest scorer, behind Sachin Tendulkar, in Test cricket. "I was comfortable with the decision before this game anyway. I just had a bit more of a fairy-tale ending in my own eyes than what's happened this week."

Ponting made his Test debut on the same ground at the Waca against Sri Lanka in 1995 and, in the 17 intervening years, played with and against some of the greatest cricketers of all time.

He was the most successful captain in win-loss ratios with 48 Test wins before standing down last year. His 108 wins in Test matches are more than any other player.

But only weeks from his 38th birthday, he finally conceded that his run of low scores in the series was enough evidence that it was time to go.

Ponting went to the crease at 11.37am, acknowledging a guard of honour afforded by the South African players on either side of him, and clearly determined to do something special for Australia in his last innings in international cricket.

He faced five balls before getting off the mark with a trademark pull shot to the boundary from Morne Morkel.

Seven balls later he hit a drive to the boundary, moving to 8 from two scoring shots and showing signs that his footwork had not entirely deserted him despite a lean run containing scores of 0, 4, 16, 4.

But by 12.27pm it was all over when he edged left-arm spinner Robin Peterson to Jacques Kallis at first slip. Australia finished 309 runs short of the victory target and South Africa kept the No 1 ranking.

Ponting accepted the sporting gestures from the South Africans that bracketed his innings, stopping to shake hands with on his way to the crease, and shaking hands with every fielder who ran up to him to acknowledge his contribution to the sport.

"That caught me by surprise. Graeme's gesture," Ponting said. "That sort of stuff will remain with me forever."

Smith said the special attention for a rival, he considered as the most competitive cricketer he had ever played against, was "just a sign of respect for someone who has given the game so much".

After the match, Clarke and David Warner hoisted Ponting onto their shoulders and carried him off the field like a champion, all smiles despite the loss.

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