Swann decides to call it a day

England spinner Graeme Swann has stunned the cricketing world by announcing his retirement from the game with immediate effect.

One of England's greatest ever spin bowlers, the 34-year-old Nottinghamshire man is to stay in Australia with his family but will not play in either of the final two Ashes Tests.

England have already lost the series, having been convincingly defeated in the first three Tests, and Swann has not been as effective as usual, taking seven wickets at a cost of 80 as the Australian batsmen have looked to attack him.

However, he boasts a superb overall record in Tests, having captured 255 wickets in 60 matches, the most ever by an England off-spinner.

Swann said: "After a great deal of consideration I have decided to call it a day on my international and first class career.

"This decision has been very difficult, seeing as the England team has been my family for seven years now, but I feel that now is the right time to step down.

"With two games to go in Australia and then a fiercely competitive summer against Sri Lanka and India, I feel that it is a great time for someone else to strap themselves in and hopefully enjoy the ride as much as I have."

Swann retires having been an integral part of three Ashes-winning teams, an England side which was ranked the best Test team in the world at one point, and another which won the World T20 tournament in 2010.

"It couldn't have been much better and I couldn't be any more proud," he said.

Swann told the Sun on Sunday he had been considering retirement for a while.

"When I left home back in October, I thought this might be my last tour for England," he said.

"Then, a couple of weeks ago, I looked in the mirror and I knew it would be.

"People always say that sportsmen instinctively know when the time is right to retire and I had that exact feeling during the Adelaide Test.

"So now, with the series beyond our reach, I have just brought forward the decision by a couple of matches."

Swann retires as England's sixth leading Test wicket-taker of all time, with 17 five-wicket hauls to his name.

However, he has been troubled by a shoulder injury and said: "My right elbow hasn't felt quite the same since I had a second operation earlier this year.

"The surgeon did an unbelievable job to get me back on the field but the joint struggles to cope when I bowl a lot.

"From day to day it feels great but, when I'm into my 35th or 40th over, it's not ideal."

However, he is rightly proud of his achievements and added: "I don't regret a single day of my career.

"Every high has been celebrated with verve and vigour and every low painfully accepted as a chance to learn and improve.

"My personal highlights include the three Ashes victories, which I will cherish for the rest of my life, and the World T20 victory in the West Indies, which ranks as my limited-overs highlight.

"I have met, played with and against, and become friends with some magnificent people throughout my journey and feel truly privileged to have been given these opportunities.

"Finally I'd like to thank all my England team mates for their non-stop support and camaraderie and, of course, wish Andy Flower and Alastair Cook all the success in the world for the future."

Coach Flower was swift to praise Swann and said: "Graeme Swann has made an outstanding contribution to the England cricket team in all formats throughout an incredibly successful career and I would like to congratulate him on all that he has achieved.

"The dressing room will be a very different place without Graeme's unique personality and I would like to wish him all the very best for the future."

Australia coach Darren Lehmann was taken aback to hear the England off-spinner has called time on his career.

"It was a bit of a surprise," he said, on his arrival in Melbourne for the Boxing Day Test.

"He's been a great cricketer for England over many years, so I wish him all the best in retirement.

"It's mid-tour - I don't know what's going on - but obviously he's decided he's had enough.

"So congratulations on a great career - he'll go home as one of the England greats.

"Obviously he feels the time is right, and that's his decision."