RICKY Ponting was more nervous than he has ever been when he walked out to bat for his last Test innings, and in the end he couldn't muster ''one last push''.
Ponting's illustrious career ended when he was chaired from the field by David Warner and Michael Clarke. But a final contribution of eight runs and a 309-run loss to world No. 1 South Africa wasn't how he wanted it to end.
He said that when the failures started stacking up at the beginning of the South Africa series, he couldn't make the pressure go away.
Final stand: South African players form a guard of honour as Ricky Ponting makes his final walk to the middle on Monday. Photo: Getty Images
Ponting, one of the toughest men in Australian sport, kept his eyes down as they welled with tears and cleared his throat as he signed off on his 168-Test career in the gym in the bowels of the WACA Ground on Monday night.
''I was comfortable with the decision before this game anyway,'' he said as he cuddled his eldest daughter, Emmy. ''In my own mind I knew it was the right time to be walking away. I just probably had a bit more of a fairytale ending in my own eyes than what's happened this week.''
He was taken by surprise when the South Africans assembled a guard of honour as he walked to the crease for his last innings. ''The ovation not so much, because even in Adelaide when they didn't know it was going to be my last game, I got a great ovation,'' he said.
Ricky Ponting's farewell Test innings
Ricky Ponting receives a guard of honour and a standing ovation for his last Test innings. Photo: Robert Cianflone
''I got my big ovation to day, but Graeme's gesture and the South African boys' gesture, that sort of stuff will remain with me forever, and I told them that out on the field. I was pretty pumped up for the moment. I just felt there was one last big push from me and the game and the day was sort of set up for it. It didn't last long enough. It just would have been nice to have more next to my name coming off.''
Ponting said the finality of his retirement, and of Australia's failed bid for the No. 1 title, had sunk in. He struggled to explain how his form had deserted him after he dominated Sheffield Shield attacks leading into the series.
He was defeated by good balls in Brisbane and the first innings in Adelaide. ''From there I really
put a lot of pressure on myself to perform, knowing that I had to.
''Also knowing where the series was at, it's always been about big games and big series for me, and getting off to the start I did just had me under pressure again and I haven't been able to deal with it as well of late.
''Normally when I've been under pressure I've been able to find something within, go out and score runs, and make it go away, but I haven't been able to do that for a while now and that was when the alarm bells started to ring.
''That it's over has sunk in, yeah. It's been a pretty long, tough week. I have been more nervous this game than any other game I've played, just because of how much it means to me to play for Australia and wanting to finish the right way.''
The tears came as he thanked his family and the Mowbray Cricket Club, his first club. ''That's the place I learnt the game and the person I am was sort of moulded from my upbringing,'' he said. ''What you've seen over 17 years is a result of my early days at the Mowbray Cricket Club.''
Ponting will swing straight into training with Hobart for the Big Bash League, and could be there for the first day of the first Test of the post-Ponting era. He will miss the dressing room most and will have to wean himself off the game that is all he has known for 20 years.
''You ask the boys in the dressing room, they reckon I won't miss a ball that is bowled anywhere around the world,'' he said.
''Of course, I will keep an eye on it, because I will miss not being out there. I will be interested to see who slots into the No. 4 spot. I will be interested to see what the bowling attack looks like for Hobart. I will probably be down there - I've got some training to do for the Hurricanes.
''Who knows, I might even be around for the first day of the game. I might even join in the warm-up with the boys and see if there's just one more chance.''