The end is drawing near … Ricky Ponting. Photo: Getty Images
NOT even South Africa will concede that Ricky Ponting's retirement party has been ruined just yet.
One last time, with feeling, Australians will be able to watch Ricky Ponting bat in a Test. Even if history suggests his team's cause is lost, it promises to be an emotional finish.
Australian coach Mickey Arthur dismissed suggestions that the desire to make Ponting's farewell Test a special one had placed undue pressure on the team.
Third Test, Day 3
South Africa's Hashim Amla celebrates after hitting a century on day three of the third cricket test match against Australia in Perth, Australia. Photo: AP
''Not at all. It was an emotional morning for the team but if anything I think it spurred the team on to greater heights. It spurred the team on to send Ricky off in a really good way. It hasn't worked out the first three days but who knows what happens on day four and five,'' said Arthur, who as coach of South Africa in 2008 engineered a record WACA Ground chase of 414 to set up the Proteas' historic series win. ''Ricky will come out and make 250 and it will be fantastic.''
A.B. de Villiers, whose 169 put Australia's second-string attack to the sword, refused to be labelled the villain of Ponting's farewell Test. ''He still has to come out and bat so we haven't ruined anything yet,'' he said.
Perhaps the magnitude of the task facing Australia - a target of 632 - will allow Ponting to bat with the freedom that has been missing in this series.
The final act ... Australia's Ricky Ponting. Photo: Getty Images
''It's been hard to enjoy it when you know everything is coming to an end and coming to an end pretty quickly,'' Ponting told Channel Nine before the third day's play.
''I made the decision towards the end of the Adelaide game that this would be my last Test match and I had to try and deal with it pretty quickly, get it out of my mind and then try and focus on the game knowing how big a game it was for us and more importantly for me just to make sure I finish on the right note.''
Ponting is determined to rise above his series average of six, and his first innings dismissal when he was defeated by a swinging ball from Vernon Philander.
The final act of his 168th and final Test will be an emotional occasion, whatever the outcome.
''When I addressed them [the team] the other day I was overcome. Talking about yourself and your career [is OK] but when you involve other people that you are close to, that's when I started to get emotional. I held it together reasonably well in the press conference but the finality of it all at the end of this game … I have my family over here which is really special, but we will wait and see,'' he said. ''Hopefully I can keep it together and hopefully I am talking about some good memories from out here in this Test match. It would be nice to finish a bit better than I started the other day.''