KP hails 'great' Ponting
Kevin Pietersen was among the first to pay tribute to Ricky Ponting after the Australia legend announced he is to retire from Test cricket.
Pietersen, currently on tour with England in India, made his own Test debut against Ponting's Australia in the 2005 Ashes - a series which culminated in a famous home victory.
That was to be the first of three Ashes series Ponting would lose as captain, two in England and one in Australia - and now at the age of 37, the Tasmanian has accepted he will not do battle for the urn again after all.
Pietersen announced himself with a swashbuckling hundred as England claimed the Ashes for the first time in a generation seven years ago.
He voiced his admiration for Ponting on Twitter, signing off with the hashtag 'legend' to describe the great number three batsman. "Ricky Ponting RETIRES.... ONE OF THE GREATS!" Pietersen wrote.
"I always got excited playing AUS, so I could watch him bat up close. Well done Punter!"
Ponting will call time on his 17-year international career after the forthcoming Perth Test against South Africa, and will therefore never again face England - against whom Australia will play 10 Ashes Tests in home and away series in 2013 and early 2014.
England wicketkeeper Matt Prior was quick to follow Pietersen's lead, with his own tribute to Ponting - also on Twitter.
"Congrats to Ricky ponting on an amazing career," he said.
"One of, if not the, best batsmen I've ever played against and fierce opponent!"
Michael Clarke, Australia's current Test and one-day international captain and Ponting's immediate successor, was taken aback by the veteran's decision to retire - even though it comes after a worrying loss of form at the highest level.
"I didn't have a feeling it was coming," he said.
"Ricky spoke to me after [the second Test against South Africa in] Adelaide and obviously made his decision over the last few days.
"The boys are obviously hurting right now. He's been an amazing player for a long time." Ponting's retirement will have no detrimental effect on Australia's preparations to face South Africa in Perth, however.
"It will only give us more inspiration," added an emotional Clarke, who has played his entire Test career with Ponting as a senior guiding force in the team.
The 'legend' hashtag is a recurring theme among team-mates and opponents eager to pay their own tributes today on Twitter.
Australia opener David Warner wrote: "Well done to Ricky and his family...has been an outstanding career and will be missed by everyone! #legend."
India batsman Virat Kohli added: "Ricky Ponting - what an absolute legend.
"I am glad I had the honour of playing against him. Take a bow."
Tom Moody, twice a member of Ponting's World Cup-winning squads as an Australia all-rounder before becoming a successful international coach, said: "Congratulations Punter on an astonishing career ... been a privilege to play alongside you and watch from afar.
"You are truly a great Australian."
Former England captain Michael Atherton sensed the time was right for Ponting to end his career, but nonetheless ranks him among the very best cricketers in history.
"I'm not that surprised he's decided to retire," he told Sky Sports News.
"The signs have been thre for a while that his batting had slipped below his high standards.
"It's a difficult decision for every ageing sportsman to make."
As impressive as Ponting's mighty career record is, Atherton believes his contribution should not be measured in numbers alone.
"He's right up there (with best ever) ... averaging more than 50, the second-most Test runs and more than 40 hundreds.
"But I don't think of him so much in a statistical way.
"He was just a great competitor for Australia.
"His game's never been just about an accumulation of statistics. His prime motivation has always been to help Australia win Test matches.
"He's an ultra-competitive, hard-nosed competitor on the field but a nice man off it ... a peerless competitor."
Michael Vaughan, the England captain in the 2005 Ashes series, wrote on Twitter: "The best batsman I had the privilege to play against ... Ricky Ponting... #Punter. Australian cricket will not be the same without him."