Ponting 'cherished every moment'
Ricky Ponting bowed out of international cricket on Monday, saying he had "cherished every moment" of his 17-year career.
Ponting brought the curtain down on an international career which saw the former Australia captain win three successive World Cups, two of them as captain, and regain the Ashes from England on home soil.
Despite suffering a disappointing defeat to South Africa in Perth to end his career with a 1-0 series defeat, Ponting was able to look back on plenty of success.
His 168 Tests for Australia - a record held jointly with Steve Waugh - yielded a record 48 wins whilst he captained the side, an impressive 41 centuries and 13,378 runs for an average of 51.85.
"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. "I've cherished every moment but it was always going to end at some stage."
The South Africa players formed a guard of honour as Ponting stepped on to the WACA pitch for a final innings which ended with a disappointing score of eight as South African went on to win by 309 runs.
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."
Ponting picked out his 156 to help Australia save the Old Trafford Test against England in a 2005 Ashes series the home side went on to win and also his 198 at the Gabba in the return series when Australia whitewashed England to regain the urn as his best innings.
He said: "Those are the moments that are as special as it gets. I wish the boys all the best in the coming Ashes 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."
Michael Clarke, Ponting's successor as Australia captain, led the tributes as he said: "What a sad day for Australian cricket to lose such a great player. He deserves all the credit he's certainly getting.
"He's one of the greatest players I've been lucky enough to play with. The team wishes him all the best for the future.
"I've said before I hope Cricket Australia do everything in their power to keep him involved in this great game because he's one of a kind and I think the game needs him."
Clarke turned his attention to the Perth defeat which confirmed South Africa as the number one ranked Test team in the world.
"We tried our best but unfortunately we got beaten by the better team," admitted Clarke. "They're the number one Test side in the world and they showed that throughout this series."
Smith added his own tribute to Ponting.
"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."
Smith congratulated his players on winning the match and the series.
"The guys really showed a tremendous amount of ability and character," he said. "The way we turned it around here for the series win in Australia is something really special."