Ricky Ponting put on a brave face after he was denied a fairytale ending when dismissed for eight in his final Test innings yesterday, bringing the curtain down on a glittering 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.
Ponting said he “cherished every moment” of his 17 years in international cricket.
“It’s an honour to play one Test match for Australia so I’ve been lucky to play as many as I have,” said Ponting on Channel 9.
Ponting said of the tribute by his opponents: “It was unexpected, I was sort of embarrassed and wish it didn’t happen that way but it was an amazing gesture by (captain) Graeme (Smith) and the South African team.
“It’s not ended the way I would have liked but it’s been an amazing week and an amazing 20 years of first class cricket.
“There are so many (highlights) I guess through 168 Tests. Your debuts are always special, Ashes series are always special, any time we’ve played against South Africa in my time has been a special series.”
“Probably my proudest moment as Australia captain was taking a young group (of players) over to South Africa and winning a series over there, winning a series 2-1 and that was just on the back of us losing a series to South Africa in Australia,” he added.
‘One poor day cost us the series’
Newly-retired Ricky Ponting yesterday blamed “one poor day in the entire series” against South Africa for costing Australia both victory and the number one ranking in Test cricket.
South Africa emphatically won the third and final Test at the WACA Ground by 309 runs to secure a 1-0 win in the series, and Ponting had no doubt the second day in Perth was the turning point.
Australia had the better of the first two Tests in Brisbane and Adelaide, but failed to clinch victory in either match.
Having dismissed South Africa on the opening day for 225, the home side was skittled for 163 in their first innings, and then had the game ripped away from them as the Proteas piled on 206 with the bat in the second day’s final session. “We know that one poor day in the entire series has cost us the series and the chance to get to number one in the world, which we all have worked so hard for and wanted so much,” Ponting said.
“That is Test cricket though, you have to take your opportunities. We had some opportunities in Adelaide to get a win and go 1-0 up and maybe things might have been different.”
Ponting praised the South Africans and said they were worthy of their lofty status. “The fact they have beaten us at home and England at home in the last two series shows they are dominating world cricket,” he said.
“They are a very good cricket team, we had to play very good cricket to win the series and we just about did that for 13 of the 14 days in this series.
“The cricket they played on day two, that was them imposing themselves on the series and they did it better than any team I have seen before.”
Australia, minus their most decorated player, need to quickly regroup for the three-Test series against Sri Lanka, starting on December 14 in Ponting’s home state of Tasmania.
They are set to regain the services of experienced fast bowlers Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus, who were both ruled out in Perth with fatigue, but most of the attention will focus on the replacement for Ponting in the batting line-up. Rob Quiney is the obvious one, having come into the series. He didn’t perform the way he would have liked, but he was obviously the first choice batsman going into Brisbane,” Ponting said.
“(Phil) Hughes and (Usman) Khawaja are out there scoring runs almost every game they play now.
“I honestly can’t see it coming from outside those three and whichever way they go you can guarantee they will have a good replacement for me.”
Australia clearly needs to bolster a shaky top order that was exposed by the Proteas, but captain Michael Clarke, who said his team’s first innings batting cost it the Test, said he had not yet contemplated a replacement for Ponting.
“Someone has to come in for Ricky and I am sure the selectors have been thinking about that, but I haven’t been,” he said.
“I will talk to them tonight or tomorrow and we’ll work out what is best for the team.”
Clarke said he would consider moving in the batting order if it was best for the team. He was pleased with the performances of left-armers Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson, declaring that both had shown their value to the team.
Other Oz icons who failed to exit on a winning note...
Allan Border The series against South Africa in 1993-94 was squared 1-1
Steve Waugh failed to win his last Test series — against India in 2003-04. The final Test in Sydney ended in a draw; the series ended 1-1
SA skipper Graeme Smith rates Ricky one of his most respected opponents
The South Africans paid their respects to Ricky Ponting, 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 deserves every accolade, every good word that’s been said about him,” said the South Africa captain.
“For me he’s the most respected cricketer that I’ve played against. He’s been an outstanding performer for Australia. 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,” he added.
Michael Clarke urges CA to keep Ponting involved in the game
Australian captain Michael Clarke urged Cricket Australia to keep Ricky Ponting involved with the game and said his absence would leave a massive void in the national side.