Ponting announces retirement
Australia legend Ricky Ponting has announced he will retire from international cricket at the end of the third Test against South Africa.
Ponting, 37, will call time on a storied international career as 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 but holds out hope of a fitting final chapter against the Proteas in Perth.
Victory for the hosts would see them move back to first place in the ICC rankings and Ponting is fully focused on bowing out on familiar territory - on top of the world.
Ponting declined to offer a lengthy retrospective of his Baggy Green career - though he promised that would follow later - and instead outlined his burning desire to secure one last win.
"A few hours ago I let the team know my decision to make this Test my last. 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, after scoring nought and four in his last two knocks.
"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 happensd to lead to a win for the team and we get back to the top of the tree and number one in the world then there's no better time to finish."
Despite a strong start to the Sheffield Shield summer, Ponting's future has been the subject of much speculation following a dismal two Tests against the Proteas in Brisbane and Adelaide, scoring just 20 runs.
On the fourth morning of the Adelaide Oval Test he admitted that he was unsure about his place in the team, conceding that there was a real chance he would be dropped for Perth.
Coach Mickey Arthur, captain Michael Clarke and senior batsman Mike Hussey all threw their support behind Ponting following the second Test, insisting a return to form was not far away.
But with a three-Test series to come against Sri Lanka later this summer ahead of back-to-back Ashes series away and then at home against England, Ponting has decided to fall on his sword.
That will allow selectors to install a replacement at number four against the Sri Lankans rather than throwing them in at the deep end against England.
Ponting told a press conference at the WACA Ground he planned to continue playing state cricket for Tasmania, as well as honouring his Big Bash League contract with Hobart Hurricanes.
The Perth Test will be Ponting's 168th, meaning he will finish his career level with former captain Steve Waugh as Australia's most-capped Test player.
Heading into his final match the Tasmanian, who will turn 38 next month, has scored an Australian-record 13,366 runs at an average of 52.21, including 41 centuries and a highest score of 257.
Ponting's retirement comes nine months after he quit the one-day international arena and just under two years after he relinquished the captaincy of the Test squad following the 2010/11 Ashes loss.
His 48 Test wins as captain was another Australian record, although his leadership will also be remembered for three Ashes defeats, the first of them in 2005 coming after his country had held the famous urn for 16 years.
After making his debut in 1995/96 against Sri Lanka, scoring 96 before being given out LBW to a delivery that appeared set to bounce over the top of the stumps, Ponting became Australia's most prolific batsman.
His international career will now wind down at the same ground where it began against Sri Lanka.
Ponting was named ICC Player of the Year twice, in 2006 and '07, the international body's Test player of the year three times - in 2003, '04 and '06 - won the Allan Border Medal in 2004, '06, '07 and '09 and as well as being the Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 2006 was also CricInfo's Player of the Decade for 2000-09.