PERTH: Ricky Ponting put on a brave face after he was denied a fairytale ending when dismissed for eight in his final Test innings Monday, bringing the curtain down on a glittering 17-year career.
Ponting, the second-highest Test run-scorer of all-time behind India s Sachin Tendulkar, announced his impending retirement before the showdown with South Africa in Perth after a record-equalling 168 Tests for Australia.
The 37-year-old, who said he was more nervous for his final Test than at any other stage of his career, was looking to go out with a big innings.
But he lasted just 23 balls in Australia s second innings as the home side slumped to a 309-run defeat and South Africa won the series 1-0 to retain the number one Test ranking.
“I felt there was one last big push for me, and the day and game was set up for it, but it didn t last long enough,” Ponting said.
“Even out of today, only being out there for 20-odd balls or whatever it was, was still pretty special.
“It just would have been nice to have a few more next to my name.”
Ponting said the failure continued a frustrating recent inability to deliver in big moments that led him to retire.
“I have put a lot of pressure on myself to perform, it has always been about big games and big series for me,” he said.
“I haven t been able to deal with (pressure) as well of late as I would like to.
“Normally when those big moments come around I have been able to find something, and I haven t been able to do that for a while now.”
He walked out to a standing ovation from a crowd of around 7,000 at the WACA ground, including his wife Rianna, and parents Graeme and Lorraine.
The South Africans also paid their respects, forming an unusual and poignant guard of honour when he strode to the crease, with the Tasmanian shaking hands with Proteas skipper Graeme Smith.
Smith said he wanted to honour his toughest opponent.
“He is the player I respect most,” he said.
“It was a sign of respect from us for someone who has given the game so much.
“All of us will miss Ricky as an opponent.”
Ponting was out just minutes before lunch, getting a thick edge to Jacques Kallis when he attempted to force spinner Robin Peterson off the back foot.
He loitered at the crease momentarily after his dismissal, seemingly unable to comprehend what had happened, before trudging off as the electronic scoreboard read “Thanks Ricky”.
Ponting briefly stopped his walk back to the pavilion to raise his bat to all points of the ground and acknowledge the crowd one last time, while Smith abruptly cut short his team s celebrations for another round of applause.
Australian captain Michael Clark urged Cricket Australia to keep Ponting involved with the game and said his absence would leave a massive void in the national side.”I don t think it has hit the players yet, it will do when we walk out in the first Test against Sri Lanka (next week) and he is not there,” he said.
“It is not just what he does on the field, it is what he gives us off the field as well, around training sessions, in the change rooms, his help, guidance, advice is something that can t be replaced.
“He is going to be missed, the game will miss him.
“What a player he has been, he has deserved all the accolades he has received over the last five days.”
Ponting finishes his career with 13,378 Test runs at 51.85, including 41 centuries, having also played 375 one-day internationals.
He shares the record for Test appearances for his country with his predecessor as Australian captain, Steve Waugh.