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Ponting gone (but there's always next Sunday)

Submitted by rickeyre on December 4, 2012 - 7:10pm

Shortly after midday on a Perth Monday afternoon, Ricky Ponting's Test career of 16 years and 362 days came to an end with this delivery from Robin Peterson:

(Video from Cricket Australia's Youtube channel.)

It wasn't quite up there with the most anticlimactic farewell innings of the time, that of The Don in 1948. Ponting scored 8, doubling his first innings 4 but dragging his career average below 52. Robin Peterson got some bounce, forced an inelegant cut from Ponting which edged to Kallis at slip.

Walking from the field, he turned, held his arms aloft to say goodbye to the WACA crowd. Then with Channel Nine's Stalkcam in hot pursuit, he climbed the stairs to return to the Australian dressing room one last time. 168 Tests, 13379 runs. The end.

Earlier, the South Africans gave him a guard of honour as he walked out to bat. A sporting, emotional gesture, reminiscent of that English greeting for Bradman 64 years ago, of the Australians with Ganguly in 2008, and indeed with the English for Curtly Ambrose at The Oval in 2000. Not always does a great player get to announce his valedictory performance in advance.

But even the farewell could not be without its moment of farce. Cue back to Friday evening as Australia's second first innings wicket fell and the crowd rose as one to greet the incoming number four batsman... nightwatchman Nathan Lyon has never received such an ovation, even if it was intended for someone else.

The biggest farce, sadly, was the outcome of the Test, with Australia losing to South Africa inside four days by 309 runs. This after the visitors were 75 for 6 on the first day, and giving South Africa the series 1-0 and enabling them to retain their ICC number one ranking.

Ponting's seventeen years of Test cricket have taken him through some great highs with Australia - the leadership of Mark Taylor, the stellar lineup and long winning streaks of the Steve Waugh years. His own captaincy record was outstanding, except for the fact that he lost three Ashes series out of four.

While he performed many brilliant feats in the field over the years, his batting is the thing. The pull shot and all those great strokes. I'm going to crib a little on the question of his best innings and highlight the two purplest of purple patches - his back-to-back double centuries against India in 2003, and the summer of 2005-06 when he scored twin tons in a Test no less than three times, two in Australia and one in South Africa. Out of my archive I found this piece where I gushed over his match-winning performance in the Sydney Test of 2006 against South Africa.

What we often forget is that so much of Ponting's success came after his fracas at the Bourbon and Beefsteak at Kings Cross in 1999, which resulted in his suspension from the ODI team and his admission that he had an alcohol problem. Suffice to say, Ponting eventually became a spokesperson for Swisse vitamin pills, and the Bourbon and Beefsteak shut down in 2010.

But back to the present, and for Ricky Ponting, as with most of the leading professional cricketers these days, retirement is but an incremental process. He has already dropped out of, in order, Twenty20 internationals, the Test captaincy, and one-day internationals. But fresh from Monday's Farewell To Cricket, he will report for duty next Sunday in Hobart Hurricanes gear as a new season of Big Bash kicks off.

And, as it happens, he's now available for the full BBL season.