Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Ricky Ponting aims to sign off in style

Ricky Ponting is playing in his last Test match after announcing his retirement

Irish cricket fans will not see Ricky Ponting after all next summer, following the former Australia captain’s decision to retire from Test cricket.

Ponting aims to sign off in styleTime to go: Ricky Ponting |is playing in his last Test match after announcing |his retirementirish cricket fans will not see Ricky Ponting after all next summer, following the former Australia captain’s decision to retire from Test cricket.

It had been mooted that Ponting would captain the Australia A team which will play Ireland next June, in a four-day game as a warm-up for the Test match specialists ahead of next summer’s Ashes series.

But instead, Ponting has the chance to leave Australian cricket where he has helped to put it for most of his stellar career — on top of the world.

Victory over South Africa in Perth, in the final international match of his 17-year career, which started this morning, would take Australia back to number one in the International Cricket Council Test rankings.

It would be a fairytale way to bid farewell for the 37-year-old, and an appropriate one too to cap his many achievements as a World Cup and Ashes-winning captain.

Ponting — known to everyone as Punter — is the second-highest run-scorer in Test history and the most successful captain of all time, with 48 Test wins. He cited recent struggles with the bat as the reason for his dramatic eve-of-Test announcement.

“A few hours ago I let the team know my decision to make this Test my last,” Ponting told a packed press conference yesterday afternoon.

“It's a decision I thought long and hard about. But at the end of the day, it's based on my results and my output in this series so far,” he said, having made nought and four in his last two innings.

“It hasn't been what I expect of myself or to the level I feel is required for batsmen in the Australia team.

“I continued to play as long as I felt I could contribute to wins but over the last couple of weeks I felt my level of performance has not been good enough to do that.

“My passion and love of the game has not changed one bit over the last 12-18 months, where things haven't been as I'd have liked or pictured them.

“But as far as I'm concerned my immediate focus — and the focus of the team— is on what we're presented with tomorrow. It's an unbelievable opportunity in what is almost a 'grand final' situation.

“I've prepared this week and I'm hungrier than ever. I want this win more than any game I've ever played in. If that happened to lead to a win for the team and we get back to number one in the world, then there's no better time to finish.”

Ireland coach Phil Simmons tweeted: “Last five days for us to see a true legend of the game on the field, Great batsman, fieldsman, captain. All the best Ricky.”

And Ireland’s senior player, Australian Trent Johnston added: “Looking forward to seeing one of the world's greatest batsmen exit the game on a high by beating SA in Perth.”

Ponting intends to continue playing state cricket for Tasmania.

His successor as Australia captain, Michael Clarke was near-tearful when he said: “I didn't have a feeling it was coming.

“The boys are obviously hurting at the moment. He's been an amazing player for a long time.”

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